Miller scholarship changes lives of minority students

Editor’s Note: This is the second part in a three-part series about funding for diversity. Part three will be printed Friday.

As a senior in high school, going to a university like the U seemed an unlikely option for Adam Montero.

Montero said he wanted to go to college, but after being removed from two abusive homes and living on his own since age 15, he simply couldn’t afford it.

He supported himself through high school by working late hours at McDonald’s, but on the limited salary he earned, he said, paying living expenses as well as tuition would have been overwhelming.

“I was living on my own, I was working 40 hours (a week)-those kind of things don’t exactly support a college education,” Montero said.

But following the advice of a high-school counselor, Montero applied for the Larry H. Miller Enrichment Scholarship for ethnic minorities and his options began to change.

Now, Montero is a senior at the U majoring in computer science-an accomplishment he credits to the support he received from the scholarship.

“I don’t think I could have asked for anything better,” Montero said.

Miller currently supports 44 students from diverse backgrounds through the scholarship. The students are given full tuition, room, board and money for books.

Stayner Landward, dean of students, said he estimates that Miller will pay the U between $400,000 and $450,000 this year to fund the scholarship. Landward leads a committee that selects the scholarship’s recipients.

Since Miller created the program in 2002, he has presented 10 to 12 students with a scholarship each year. Of the 58 students who have received the grant, about 95 percent of them have either graduated or are still in school.

Miller said he is pleased with the direction Landward and other U administrators have taken with the scholarship.

“If the retention rate stays anywhere near where it is, we can declare it a resounding success,” Miller said.

Landward said the high retention rate of the program is rare for a group of students. As a whole, about 51 percent of the U student body graduate within 6 years of coming to the U.

“I don’t know that anybody can boast that a population they sponsor has a 95 percent retention and/or graduation rate,” Landward said.

The scholarship requires that students be assigned a personal mentor to help them adjust to life at the U and that they work 10 hours a week in a job on campus. Miller said these criteria, along with Landward’s careful selection of recipients, has been largely responsible for the program’s success.

While Miller has been supporting diverse students through his enrichment scholarship for the past four years, he has received little public recognition for his actions. Miller said he prefers to keep his donations private.

“I want to be careful about not doing things?for the honors of men,” Miller said. “I want to do it for the right reasons.”