Ryan, Montana State University Presidential Scholar

Ryan, Sentinel High School Class of 2015, followed his genuine interests and created a meaningful leadership project based around helping his peers gain financial responsibility skills. This project, in combination with his remarkable academics and diligent work on the standardized tests, helped him earn the highly sought after (and increasingly elusive) full-ride scholarship for his undergraduate education.  We recently had a chance to chat with him about his project, and his plans for college. Below is a list of the scholarships Ryan was awarded, followed by our discussion with him.

  • Montana State University Presidential Scholarship
  • Montana State University College of Engineering Scholarship
  • Montana University System Honors Scholarship
  • Plum Creek Community Scholarship
  • Elks “Most Valuable Student” Scholarship
  • Student Assistance Foundation Scholarship

 Ryan, can you describe your project for those who don’t know about it?

The project that I completed in conjunction with Hughes Tutoring during my junior year was known as Life Prep 101. I decided that the best way to educate my peers about college preparation and financial literacy would be to bring in a series of speakers consisting of local business owners and members of the financial industry to speak at weekly lunch meetings. This would allow students to gain valuable life information while not requiring them to sacrifice a course credit to attend a class of a similar nature.

Tell us a bit about the process you went through to create ‘Life Prep 101’ 

After securing a classroom and the dates for the presentations, I had to coordinate the most important aspect of this project: the speakers and their topics. I created and distributed a questionnaire to students and faculty at Sentinel High School about what they felt would be most beneficial to cover during the meetings; I made it my goal to bring in five speakers to present. After hours of emails and face-to-face meetings, I ended up coordinating with speakers from Missoula Federal Credit Union, Edwards Jones Investments, the Lampo Group, Hughes Tutoring and College Preparation, and GT Advanced Technology. Representatives of these corporations and local businesses spoke on personal budgeting, investments, finances, college and scholarship research, and marketability in the workplace respectively.

After establishing speakers, the next step was to incentivize students to attend. To boost attendance, along with speaking with teachers, peers, and hanging flyers, I made it my goal to raise funds for a student scholarship based on attendance at the meetings. After pitching my idea to numerous businesses and individuals, three donations (from Missoula Federal Credit Union, the Sentinel Coffee Cart, and a private donation from the speaker of the Lampo Group) came through that resulted in a $200 scholarship.

This scholarship was to be awarded to a randomly selected attendee, with their name being placed in the drawing once for every meeting they attended. This not only helped boost attendance to roughly 10 students per lecture, but also set one lucky student on the path to working her way through college debt free.

What advice do you have for students just starting out on their college preparation / application journey?  

For students just beginning their college and project preparation, I have two pieces of advice. First, find out what you are passionate about and everything else will seem to fall naturally into place. Second, have faith in those who are guiding you, whether they are mentors from Hughes Tutoring, school, family, or any other walk of your life. They know what you are going through and are here to help you accomplish any goal that you have set your mind to.

What are your plans for college?  

I plan to attend Montana State University next fall while pursuing a major in Chemical Engineering. I also will be a part of the Honors College where I hope to study abroad, get involved in undergraduate research, and graduate with an Honors Baccalaureate degree. Finally, I intend to join the Engineers Without Borders, MSU Triathlon, and MSU Cycling programs when I arrive next fall.