Four years after the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Montana Resources, established the Rolin Erickson Montana Resources Opportunity Scholarship at Montana Technological University, students say the award has completely altered the trajectory of their lives, opening doors to countless opportunities.
In 2017, Sadie Starcevich was one of the first recipients of the 4-year, full-ride scholarship for first-generation Butte students. She crossed the graduation stage in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Information Technology - Accounting, with highest honors. She now works at NorthWestern Energy, and says the scholarship “afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime and allowed me to obtain an excellent education that otherwise would not have been possible,” Starcevich said.
Jaime Heppler, CEO of the Montana Tech Foundation, noted the difference the scholarship makes in the lives of students. “The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation has made a tremendous impact in the lives of talented Butte students aspiring to achieve a Montana Tech degree,” Heppler said. “Their investment in the community and the University is a testament to their generosity and influence in building a strong economic workforce right here at home.”
Recently, Montana Resources President Jack Standa and Vice President of Human Resources Mike McGivern visited Montana Tech to speak with the students. Both are proud Oredigger alumni.
“You can’t go wrong with a Montana Tech degree,” Standa said. “You’ll look back in 30 years and be amazed at what you’ve done thanks to your time at Montana Tech.”
McGivern told the students the scholarship was established to help local students, so they could succeed and go on to careers that will better the greater Butte community.
“This scholarship can help you start a whole new trajectory,” McGivern said. “You will do great, amazing things.”
Both Standa and McGivern encouraged the students to work through challenging classes, and gave examples of their early experiences with difficult classes that weren’t indicative of the eventual success that was to follow.
Theresa Rader is Director of TRIO Support Services at Montana Tech, a service that provides academic support for first-generation students.
“We know just throwing money at students doesn't’t necessarily ensure success,” Rader said. “We work with these students to make sure they have the resources and support to succeed.”
Taylor Bjorkman is a freshman working toward a Business degree, and said the scholarship is transformational.
“This scholarship has provided an amazing opportunity for me,” Bjorkman said. “I wasn't planning on starting school until later because I wanted to save some money. I've always wanted to go to college but the financial part was causing me a lot of stress. This scholarship allowed me to start school this Fall. It has also allowed me to focus completely on school. It is such a relief and I'm truly thankful for the opportunity I was given.”
Because of the scholarship, freshman chemistry major Zachary Noctor plans to continue his education past the bachelor’s degree level.
“This scholarship allows me to make the income of my future career less important,” Noctor said. “It will allow me to focus on obtaining a graduate degree after I complete my Bachelor's Degree. After that, I would like to pursue a teaching or research position, rather than a position that would make more money. This scholarship has reinforced my goals and negated the drawbacks of pursuing a career in academia.”
Cellular and molecular biology junior Tyler Steele said he has ramped up his work ethic because of the scholarship.
“This scholarship helped lift the weight of having dreadful student loans, so academics could remain my top priority,” Steele said. “Receiving this scholarship has pushed me to work harder than ever.”
Occupational Health and Safety senior Marty Hanley also said the scholarship has driven him to work harder.
“The opportunity has meant a lot for my education, the honor of receiving a scholarship with the incentives such as the one from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation has pushed me to strive for short-term and long-term goals,” Hanley said. “As a first-generation college student, this scholarship has set me up accomplish my dreams. I might not have been able to do so without being a recipient. I am thankful for the opportunity and the great education I have received over the last four years.”
Nursing senior Grayson Gleason says the scholarship allowed him to attend the best nursing school in the state, and consider completing a master’s degree in nursing in the future.
“I can now be more of a service to the communities in and around Butte,” Gleason said.
He says local students should not let go of dreams of higher education just because of finances.
“Do not give up the thought of pursuing higher education after high school just because the money is not in the cards or because no one else in your family has attended,” Gleason said. “Scholarships like this exist to help students like us achieve our goals and dreams despite adversities.”
Nursing freshman Kellie Yelenich is focused on starting a career, instead of worrying about paying for her schooling post-graduation.
“This scholarship has guaranteed that I can graduate college debt free, and I can start my future career as a labor and delivery nurse without the stress of having to pay off any student loans,” Yelenich said.
The window for selection of students for the Montana Resources Rolin Erickson Opportunity Scholarship for 2023-2024 academic year is open now. The first step to be considered for the scholarship is to apply to Montana Tech for admission. First generation students graduating from a Butte high school in Spring 2023 are encouraged to fill out the Montana Tech Admissions Application here https://iam.mtech.edu/applynow/inquiryform.