Donor scholarships are student’s lucky break

 

 Hannah Chai 

Hannah Chai studies hospitality management on a warm spring day.
 

    Hannah Chai finally caught a break when she enrolled at Pitt-Bradford.
    The second-year hospitality management major from Philadelphia is the kind of student donors love to help – she works incredibly hard and is incredibly grateful for her grants and donor scholarships, the Metz & Associates Ltd. Scholarship and the Copy Connection Scholarship.
    Scholarships for students like Chai are the top priority of 50 and Beyond: The Campaign for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford launched publicly this spring, with a goal of $6.5 million for student aid.
    Chai makes the best of every opportunity given to her, such as a chance to take part in an internship in the fall with the Disney College Program in Orlando, Fla.
After seeing the presentations of several upperclassmen in class, she decided to apply as a way to put in the 600-hour practicum required by her major because getting back and forth to a job is an issue.
    As part of the program, she will work in lodging at one of the Disney resorts.
“They say it’s really hard, but I need the experience,” she said. She thinks about the kind of manager she wants to be, and she knows it will require understanding how hard the people she supervises work.
    “I want to be a good manager – understanding and caring, but at the same time, respected.”
    She found her love of hospitality management as a teenager working in a suburban Outback Steakhouse where she was a hostess.
    “I love working with new people every day.”
    Chai speaks Korean at home with her mother and brother and would speak it with the Korean families that came to the restaurant. It kept some of them coming back, which made her feel good.
    Hers is a classic story of American upward mobility. Wherever Chai ends up, it will likely be better than where her mother has worked as a clerk at a dry cleaning business and in a nail salon.
Chai’s mom had it better before her husband died unexpectedly from a brain tumor when Hannah was 9. Hannah’s dad had been moderately successful, owning two fish markets, but did not have health insurance.
    The couple had come to the United States from Korea to provide their children with a better education than is available in Korea, where university entrances are highly competitive.
After her husband’s death and with limited English skills, Mrs. Chai relied on her daughter and son to speak for her and negotiate the adult world, something Chai still assists with. Most recently, she had to help her mother negotiate the world of Medicaid and, when that was cut off, find free care for her mother’s cervical cancer.
    Without her financial aid, Chai says, her education would not be possible, and that, she said, would be more devastating than anything to her mother.
The one thing she wants to tell donors, she says, is that “I don’t think I could thank them enough. Without them, I would have to keep taking out loans. My scholarships help with books.
    “I know a lot of schools don’t provide this kind of help, and Pitt-Bradford really keeps encouraging students to sign up. I really want to say I’m grateful. I hope to be a donor one day, too.”
    For more information on setting up or contributing to a scholarship fund, contact Jill Ballard, executive director of institutional advancement, at (814)362-5091 or jballard@pitt.edu.

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