An upcoming grant, spearheaded by GSBA President Carlo Juntilla, hopes to provide first-generation and low income Gonzaga students with greater opportunities for success while at GU.
The fund, dubbed the Undergraduate Professional Development Grant, will provide students who are accepted with funding for basic professional development needs.
“The passion behind this [grant] is my belief that there is so much potential that has yet to be tapped,” said Juntilla, a first-generation college student himself.
Juntilla said that graduate school entry tests, attire for interviews, flights to conferences, conference fees and study abroad fees, are all examples of professional development needs the grant could fund.
Juntilla described these professional development needs as, “things that are so normal for a regular college student, but are sometimes inaccessible [to first-generation or low income students] because of financial burdens.”
The goal for the grant is to raise $50,000, an amount which would qualify the grant as an endowment and mean that the grant would continue for years to come.
As of now, Juntilla has received a total of $30,000 via donation from the Board of Trustees. He plans to continue raising money by reaching out to GU donors and community members, as well as listing the grant as a program to be funded for on Zags Give Day on March 8.
The grant plans to fund 100 GU students each year and students will be allowed to apply for up to $500 worth of funding. If they would like, students can reapply for the grant each year that they are at GU.
Associate Vice President of University Advancement Dori Sonntag, assisted and encouraged Juntilla during the creation of the scholarship. She believes the grant can have a great impact.
“We like to use the phrase, ‘Zags help Zags’,” Sonntag said. “This grant is a wonderful example. Many students don’t have access to funds needed in order to take the next step in preparing for their careers or post graduate opportunities.”
“This grant will help remove financial barriers and may be that one boost needed to land a job or be accepted into a graduate program,” Sonntag said.
Juntilla believes that the grant fits into GU’s mission of caring for the poor and vulnerable. He hopes that the grant will provide more than just funding for the students who receive it.
“There is a need within the first [generation] community of feeling a greater sense of belonging, because at GU a majority of students here are upper-middle class,” Juntilla said.
He is optimistic that first-generation Zags will see this as a showing of support.
“I’m hoping that this will send a message to our first-generation college students to say that you belong here,” Juntilla said. “That GU is making strides to ensure your success.”
The idea for the grant and Juntilla’s ambition toward seeing it come to fruition both arose from his own GU experience.
“The passion comes from me being a first-generation college student and me recognizing that our first-generation college students have so much to offer to the university, but sometimes don’t have the means to actualize their potential, because of financial restrictions.”
As a former first-generation GU undergraduate alumni herself, Sonntag understands the positive difference the grant can make.
“This grant would have been a life saver for me if I had the opportunity to access it back then,” Sonntag said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work on this project to help provide financial relief to students with need and help set them up for future success.”
Juntilla hopes the grant is administered for the first time while he is still at GU, but he also believes that it is more important for the fund to be established in the right manor.
“If it takes one year, if it takes six months, if it takes five years, so long as it is done correctly and so long as it has longevity and that it is consistent, I don’t care when it will be distributed,” Juntilla said.
It is still Juntilla’s goal, however, to have one or two of the grants handed out by this April.
Another unique aspect of the grant is that it will all be student administered. Meaning that students will make the decisions on who receives funding.
“When a student applies, the application will be screened, anonymously, by students,” Juntilla said.
According to Juntilla, by having students be involved in the process, the grant is attempting to give students the opportunity to fulfill GU’s mission statement of being people with and for others. The plan hopes to provide an opportunity for engagement with students from different backgrounds and understanding what it means for students to help their peers.
Students who apply will be screened through an application process that will ensure students fit the categories of need. A standard for what qualifies as financially needy has not yet been decided.
Once the application is released, students will be able to apply for the grant through GSBA in conjunction with Career and Professional development.