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IU Northwest News

‘I was able to breathe a little bit’

Business student expresses relief, gratitude after she is awarded scholarship

Friday Jan 09, 2015

Indiana University Northwest student Datianna Tillman admits that it was sometimes a struggle growing up in a single-parent household with two younger siblings.

“At times, we did have some limited resources,” she said, “but when we had them, we made it work and we improvised with what was there.”

The 22-year-old from Gary didn’t like the feeling of struggling and she vowed not to continue the cycle. But her drive to attend college is rooted in much more. There was also the feeling that she has something valuable to offer the world and getting an education would help her put her skills to effective use.

“I knew I wanted to do something better, so that’s why I decided to go to college,” she said. “I wanted to make something of myself. I have talents and things to show. I wanted everyone to see my capabilities and how I can help others.”

But Tillman’s desire to attend college and her ability to pay for the tuition weren’t evenly matched.

Set on going to college despite the financial barriers, Tillman enrolled anyway, sure that it was the best thing she could do for herself and her family. She recalls sitting down with her mother after she had enrolled and talking about not knowing how she’d actually pay for four years of college. She’d have to rely on loans. Tillman’s story is a common plight of IU Northwest students – the will and the desire, but not necessarily the means.

Students like Tillman are why scholarships are so important. Scholarships come from generous donors who know what an important difference the gift of tuition can make for an individual. Often, it’s because they have seen firsthand the impact of their gift, or perhaps it’s because they were once the beneficiary of someone else’s philanthropy.

Tillman was awarded the Sylvia Doyne Collins City of Gary Scholarship shortly after applying for financial aid. Because she’d maintained good grades in high school and met other criteria, she was automatically awarded the scholarship her first semester, and it has been renewed each semester. Needless to say, it was a blessing for Tillman and her family.

“Without the scholarship it would be very difficult,” she admitted. “It would be a financial burden on me with being bombarded with loans and trying to pay for school. That is what I was considering even before I attended IU Northwest. I was stressed around that time because I didn’t know how I was going to pay for four years of school. So without the scholarship, I really wouldn’t have made it this far.”

Tillman recently had the privilege of meeting Collins, the benefactor of her scholarship. At the Chancellor’s Medallion Celebration, an annual fall event to recognize student scholarships, an IU Northwest colleague brought Tillman over to meet Collins so she could personally thank her for her generosity. Collins and her husband, Tom, were equally gratified to meet the recipient of their generosity.

“Ever since I received the scholarship, I had always wondered who was behind it,” Tillman said. “I often would say the name, “Sylvia Collins City of Gary Scholarship,” and wonder, “who is my scholarship from?

“I was excited to finally meet her face to face. I’m glad I got the opportunity to do so,” Tillman said. “I was able to thank her in person for giving me the opportunity to actually get through college.”

Tillman, a junior majoring in business administration, plans to continue her education and pursue an additional degree in architecture. Then, she’d like to return to her hometown and contribute to the economic rebirth of Gary.

Ultimately, the West Side High School graduate hopes to open an architectural business and when she experiences success, she vows to give back to her hometown philanthropically. She’d like to work with the city’s economic development professionals and perhaps even finance a new building in Gary.

“In the future, I hope to make a difference in my community. I would like to give back to the City of Gary by maybe playing a role in rebuilding the city, especially in the abandoned areas. I want to construct or renovate houses.”

“I feel like that is my calling,” she said. “That would mean a lot to me, to just make a difference.”

She also hopes to one day repay the favor of scholarship assistance by paying it forward for someone else who is in a similar position.

“I want to one day provide for students who are like me and in the position of not being able to provide for themselves -- to help them pay their tuition and go to school. I want to help give them a better education, better opportunities.”

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