Seven Spartanburg Methodist College students got a helping hand with tuition thanks to the United Methodist Women, a national organization with a legacy going back almost 150 years.
The group gave $29,500 in scholarships to SMC women students this academic year, with individual scholarships generally ranging between $1,000 and $5,000.
The idea of women helping women succeed wasn’t lost on 19-year-old Elena Nix of Rock Hill, one of Spartanburg Methodist’s seven scholarship recipients this year.
“I believe everybody should support each other, but there’s something special about women helping women, especially at my age,” said Nix, a freshman. “The people at United Methodist Women are very motherly figures— not only to me, but to younger people in the church. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a strong role model in their lives, so that is super important.”
Nix, who plays tennis for the SMC Pioneers, is leaning toward studying biology, and she’s considering pursuing her burgeoning interest in prosthetics. She’s also passionate about taking care of the environment.
This year, SMC received almost double the amount of scholarship funds that were given in past academic years, according to Amanda Choi, the grants manager for the national organization. Whereas previously the school would be awarded a block grant and then divvy up the funds, this year the United Methodist Women switched to a model of awarding individual scholarships, Choi said.
SMC provides the United Methodist Women with a list of potentially eligible students for the scholarship and then encourages those students to apply. Preference is given to United Methodist students, particularly those going into social service work or church vocations.
“Leadership development, particularly of women, is part of UMW’s core values. So the scholarships are there to help create and nurture another generation of women to lead in their respective fields,” said Yvette Moore, United Methodist Women communications director.
The scholarships are just one aspect of the long relationship the college has enjoyed with the United Methodist Women.
“We are blessed to have a strong relationship with United Methodist Women,” SMC President Scott Cochran said. “In addition to supporting SMC students through scholarships, the UMW hold their annual event, Mission U, on our campus for three days every July. They’ve been coming to campus for years, and we absolutely love hosting them.”
Mission U is an opportunity to study current issues affecting society, with particular attention given to the responsibilities of women in fulfilling the mission work of the church, he said.
The United Methodist Women scholarship is just one avenue of financial aid Spartanburg Methodist College students can pursue. In addition to institutional aid offered by SMC directly to students, about 60 percent of students receive external financial aid support as well, said Kyle Wade, the college’s director of financial aid and enrollment services.
“We’re very grateful to all of our outside scholarship donors, especially ones like United Methodist Women who are providing scholarships in such large dollar amounts to our students,” Wade said. “That goes a long way on these students’ accounts, in terms of helping them pay for college.”
Nix said not only does the scholarship help pay the bills, but simply being awarded the funds is a confidence-booster, a sign that an organization with such a long history is willing to invest in her future.
“That money could be used toward so many other things, but they are willing to put it toward students. They are taking a risk with that. You can’t guarantee a student is going to succeed,” Nix said. “So it’s super important that they think about it and pray about it and that they’re willing to trust us.”
The dollars that are raised and awarded in the form of scholarships are a testament to the work that goes on in churches of all sizes across the United States, Moore said.
“United Methodist Women in churches across the country give funds, raise funds, they have auctions, they have dinners, they have rummage sales, they do things all year long, and they raise money for missions. And beside them are their foremothers who raised money for missions a long time ago and put them in funds that still generate interest,” Moore said. “So they are still providing scholarships to women in the 21st century. The funds come from everyday women in local churches, with their foremothers standing beside them.”