Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship recipient profile: Jessica Peldo

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

"Someone out there has a worse life; eventually things will get better," were the thoughts that kept Jessica Peldo going during difficult times. Going to college was a dream that seemed like it would never come true for Peldo. When she was only 16 years old, she moved out of her parents' house and became entirely dependent on herself. She fought through adversity and difficult times to get to where she is today.

Jessica Peldo won a Seawolf Opportunity ScholarshipPeldo didn't exactly grow up in a picture perfect world, though, when talking to her you would never know it. At 19 years old, Peldo exudes strength and dedication far beyond her years. She was brought up in an unsafe and unhealthy environment, which ultimately left her no choice but to move out on her own.

Peldo wanted was to get an education to better her life. "I'd started six months early and applied for FAFSA. But to apply for financial aid I had to fill out a Dependency Override, which was a packet of information on my taxes, my income and assets, a letter stating why I am applying for an override, FAFSA filled out by my mother, any documentation of my family from police and court records, and an essay." Since Peldo was entirely dependent on herself, she had to provide the court with all documents that showed she was no longer dependent on her parents. The packet consisted of about 30 pages of paperwork.

Peldo applied for every scholarship for which she qualified. "My table was covered in paperwork to apply for scholarships and financial aid. I had gotten denied a lot. I almost gave up hope," Peldo said. She decided to seek help and went to the Educational Opportunity Center. They told her about the SOS scholarship, and she jumped at the opportunity. In her last attempt, Peldo decided to apply for the scholarship. This time her hard work paid off, she received the letter that would change her life. "When I found out I had received the SOS scholarship, I started crying."

The SOS Scholarship has provided Peldo with the opportunity to get the education she'd longed to receive. "If I wouldn't have received this scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to go to school. Looking back, I don't know how I got through it all, and now I'm attending UAA."

While growing up, Peldo was surrounded by situations that often resulted in law enforcement getting involved, and as a result, she's become interested in learning about the justice system. Now, Peldo is majoring in criminal justice and hopes to become a State Trooper. "I get excited for my three-hour criminal justice class, because I'm so passionate about learning about the law."

Receiving the scholarship means everything to Peldo, "It's completely changed my life forever." Peldo started school this fall at the Matanuska-Susitna campus. She is also now engaged to her boyfriend of four years.

The Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship is the result of the generous anonymous $7M gift that UAA received in the spring of 2009. Conditions of the gift stated that the majority of the money was to be used for student scholarships, particularly benefiting women and minorities. The $6M designated for scholarships enabled UAA to establish an endowment to provide needs-based scholarships to students.

This new needs-based scholarship will be awarded incrementally, up to four years, for students working toward an associate's or baccalaureate degree from UAA. This special feature is designed to provide an incentive and reward to students who persist in their studies toward a degree. Recipients of the Seawolf Opportunity Scholarship will receive money for tuition and housing or childcare each year -- all very important for student success.
This donation has already had a significant impact on the lives of UAA's students; 50 students have been awarded this special scholarship for the 2009-10 academic year.

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