As the costs of living and education rise, students are relying more on scholarships to pay for higher learning. The financial burden is compounded by the effects of the pandemic on the job market and rising gas prices, especially for low-income students.
More than 1.5 million scholarships are available to undergraduate and graduate students each year, according to Research.com. However, only one in eight college students is awarded one.
“Some students may not have the confidence to apply for a scholarship and that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t deserve to have help and deserve to get the funds,” Dr. Stephan Mathis II said.
Dr. Mathis II, 36, is the senior material program manager of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington D.C. He manages contracts for printing and engraving materials so the bureau can continue the mission of printing currency. He is also an inventor and author. Last year, he established the Catalyst for Change Chemistry Scholarship for needy students who want to earn undergraduate degrees in chemistry at Clark Atlanta University (CAU).
His scholarship is meant to help future chemists navigate their academic journeys without worrying about food and shelter.
He remembers being at school and being thankful for his parents, who had helped him with rent. However, he thinks that extra money would have been good for the days he needed a little more food.
When doing his research to start his scholarship, he found a lot of scholarships require students to complete a complicated application process. He points out, that writing a lengthy essay online could be difficult when low-income students may not have reliable internet or have time constraints due to childcare responsibilities, or a full-time job to support themselves and their families.
“I do not believe in making students jump through hoops and run a mile to receive funding for these types of endeavors,” Dr. Mathis II said, “It’s already taxing for the students even if you would receive $250.”
He says this is why his need-based scholarship requirements are simple: pursue an undergraduate degree in Chemistry full-time at CAU with a minimum GPA of 2.8.
Last year Dr. Mathis II wanted to reach $500 for his scholarship and exceeded his goal, awarding a student $580 for the Fall 2021 semester. This year, he is accepting scholarship donations until June 15. He expects to gather at least the same amount as last year for a student enrolled in Fall 2022.
“My ultimate goal is to have a scholarship that can span all HBCUs,” he said, “I want to be able for my young kids to know their dad’s scholarship is still going after 20 years.”
Dr. Mathis II was born in Miami and raised in Jacksonville, where he attended Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ). Later, he transferred to Florida State University (FSU) where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in nvironmental Chemistry. He earned a doctorate in Inorganic Chemistry from CAU.
At CAU he conducted research and invented metal-organic frameworks that detected gamma radiation: 484. Radiation detection is important in remediation for example, after a war or at testing hazardous chemicals before construction. While working with other students on his team, he decided he wanted to help needy students to secure covered tuition and meet their essential needs.
“There are so many improvements still left to be made, so many innovations still left to uncover,” he said. “The future of chemistry is bright and as long as we invest in the people, it’ll get brighter.”
Dr. Mathis II says that what he enjoys about science is that it doesn’t care if you are in an HBCU if you are well funded or not, “the right chemistry does what it’s supposed to do in the correct environment by the right chemist. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
If interested in donating to the Catalyst for Change Chemistry Scholarship, you can visit www.cau.edu and click the “Give” tab in the top right corner. Select or enter the amount. In the designation section select “other” and type in the field “Catalyst for Change Chemistry Scholarship.” Click the “Add donation” button and fill out the remaining required information before clicking on the “donate now” button.