Scholarship Changed Her Family's Lives

rainee-terrellThis article shows the importance of supporting scholarships, particularly UK's signature LEADS scholarship program. The funds amplify opportunities for student success at the University of Kentucky, one of the main initiatives of the university's $2.1 billion comprehensive campaign, Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign.

For freshman Rainee Terrell and her family, a UK LEADS scholarship was a saving grace. It meant Rainee could focus on her studies and her mother could focus on her health.

"This scholarship has changed my educational career drastically," Rainee said of the Don and Mira Ball LEADS Scholarship. "My mother and I have been working very hard to be able to pay my bills, and my mother even had two jobs as a nurse to try to help me out. When I got this scholarship, it paid off what I had left on my bill, so I called her and told her that she could quit the job that she hated and that I would be okay for the rest of this semester."

Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success, or UK LEADS, is a unique scholarship program at the University of Kentucky. Starting in 2016, UK began offering students who carried more than $5,000 in unmet need (the balance a student owes after federal, state and institutional aid, outside scholarships and family contribution are applied) one-time grants. Students selected for these scholarships were selected based on their academic merit and a financial need.

In December 2018, Mira Ball pledged more than $10 million to the LEADS program, supporting students whose only barrier to academic success was their finances.

"We cried about it, and we are so thankful for the opportunity we were given through this scholarship," Rainee said. "My mom has an autoimmune disorder that gets worse when she’s stressed out, so when I called her and told her we didn’t have to worry any more this semester, she knew she was able to focus a little more on taking care of herself, and I am so grateful for that."

The Corydon, Kentucky, native chose the University of Kentucky because of the many opportunities it afforded her. A biochemistry major, Rainee plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in trauma surgery or pediatric surgery. 

But she also loves the arts. A member of the UK Symphony Band, UK Wildcat Marching Band and Creative Arts Living Learning Program, she enjoys playing the clarinet, piano, cello, trumpet and trombone as well as singing, writing and assembling puzzles. 

More importantly, UK felt like home. 

"No matter where you’re from, you’ll always find home in Kentucky," Rainee said. "There are so many resources here and people that genuinely care about your education and growth as a person, I think that is something really special."

In her first semester, Rainee earned a 3.9 grade point average and joined Sigma Alpha Iota. She also has made friends throughout campus, but she said seeing one person always brightens her day.

"A student custodial worker here always talks to everyone that he can and wishes them a good day," Rainee said. "I think people like him are the best kind of people, and we need more of them. I admire his positivity, kindness and genuine care for others."