What can you do to help change lives of the future? 

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A Student Success Story: Alexis
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"My name is Alexis and I just graduated from Illinois State University' Mennonite College of Nursing, Summa Cum Laude. To give you a little about my life, I became a mother when I was 15 years old. When I found out I was pregnant, I was told things along the lines of 'your life is over', 'biggest mistake of your life', etc. When I was in high school, the statistic was only about 50% of teen moms graduate from high school. Imagine how much smaller that number is for teen moms who finish college. 

If there is one thing I remember from my childhood, it's my parents arguing about finances. There's one specific memory I have of my mother and step-father saying how they were going to put money in our school lunch account so we could eat for the week. I told myself I never wanted me or my children to be in that position. I wanted to go to college and get an ambitious career, but I knew that if I did, my parents would have nothing to contribute to my tuition and that I would have to find a way to make it happen myself. After becoming a mother, that reality set in even more, and I started thinking that I had to be more practical about my career. How could a teen mom possibly complete a four year degree? College is a lot of money, time, and hard work.


I always knew I wanted to do something in health care as a career, but that dream seemed unachievable given my circumstances. Shortly after having my son, I had a conversation with my dad about my plans after high school. I suggested I get a simple degree, maybe even just an associates, and go work at State Farm. That seemed like an easy, solid plan, but my dad told me,'Well Alexis... that sounds like you're settling, and I don't want you to settle.' My dad instilled some hope in me that day.


Only because of your support can stories like this happen.

I remember meeting with Liz and Paul for the first time and listening to Paul's father's story. I felt so inspired, and so honored that I had been chosen for the Stay 4 Program. Having your parents believe in you is one thing, but having ,at the time, complete strangers believe in you enough to want to sew a seed into my future was really special. Later in the school year, they sent us on a trip to ISU's campus. Aside from the fun of not having to attend my regular classes and going bowling at the end of the trip, it was very impactful. I remember looking around at all of the students on campus, and longing to be one of those students. I remember looking at Edwards Hall, the nursing hall, and thinking about all the amazing things I could do if I became a nurse. After that trip, my dreams felt a little bit more achievable. 

What happened next was completely unexpected. After I graduated high school, My father and I were looking at the projected tuition expense for my first year of college, comparing it to my financial aid (including the scholarship I received from Stay 4) and we found my first year of college was covered. Completely covered. I can't tell you how grateful and relieved I felt in that moment. Fast forward four years later, I, a teen mom, just graduated with my Bachelor's Degree in nursing. Plus, I walked out 100% debt free. This something not many college graduates are able to say, and it is my greatest testimony. It's been a month since I graduated and I still cry every time I think about it. It's thanks to the Stay 4 program, that people like me are able to climb the mountains standing in between us and our dreams. So for that, I want to say thank you. Thank you for believing in people like me and caring enough to help us achieve our dreams. I hope that one day I will have the resources to be able to do what you all have done, and give people who feel like their dreams are unachievable hope, a chance to show the statistics who's boss, and accomplish everything they have ever wanted."

Alexis and her son


John Penn, Founder-Great Plains LIFE Foundation and LiUNA Vice President/General Manager with former Illinois State University President Dr. Larry Dietz with former Stay 4 students now pursuing their education at ISU; (left to right) Sadee, Nikki, Radi, Gabrille, and Ashley

"Stay 4" Project is a program designed to identify, help and retain students who demonstrate the ability to succed, yet are considered to be at risk of dropping out of high school.

“‘Stay 4’ is great and has helped bring me closer to my goal. Not only did it provide financial support but the motivation I needed.”

ISU Student Success Story


ISU Student Success Story


“It’s so awesome to have people I don’t know and have never met, rooting for my education and future. I am so thankful for being selected for the ‘Stay 4’ Program!”


ISU Student Success Story


“The ‘Stay 4’ program has really helped to keep me motivated and worry less about college expenses. I’ve used the grant to pay for my books and it’s really helped not having to worry about that extra cost.“


ISU Student Success Story


“Before the ‘Stay 4’ program I was described as a throw away kid who had nothing, but now I am a successful ISU alumna with a mind full of aspirations and a soul brimming with dreams.”


Your ongoing support will ensure that "Stay 4" is playing an important role in the lives of young men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds; giving them the tools necessary to continue their education and become self sufficient contributing members of our communities.