Very often during my conversations with alumni I hear this common quote, “D&E took a chance on me.” This comment is immediately followed by how the caring faculty and staff were instrumental in their success as students and as adults. I recently met with a student who shared her heartbreaking and heartwarming story, and she shared that Davis & Elkins College gave her a chance to build a better life. Here’s a synopsis of MacKinzie Smith’s story and the impact that her experience at our College has had on her promising life so far.
MacKinzie became a foster child at the age of 13 and to date, has lived in 12 homes. She has five younger siblings; three brothers and two sisters. Due to an unfortunate home situation, she is only in contact with two of her brothers but hopes as the younger siblings reach 18 years of age, she can once again be part of their lives.
When MacKinzie was preparing to graduate from high school, she never considered a college education – until she went to a college fair with a friend and found Davis & Elkins College. In her own words, “D&E really wanted me, and they really made me feel like I would matter. That message meant a lot to me.” The message was made even clearer when she received a scholarship packet that enabled her to enroll and begin her D&E journey.
In addition to her studies as a Biology and Chemistry double major with a Music minor, MacKinzie became very involved on campus and it quickly became her first real home. She was a member of the Morrison-Novakovic Center for Faith and Public Policy, living in the house on campus with other members of the group. She also served on Student Assembly, provided leadership in weekly Chapel services, was inducted into Chi Beta Alpha and Zeta Kappa Xi, was a member of the cross-country team and found time for several internships along the way. She credits faculty and staff who provided comfort, support and guidance for helping her find a place where she belongs.
As MacKinzie was preparing to graduate, she wanted to help pave the way for other foster children by establishing an endowed scholarship. She made the initial $1,000 gift for the fund despite her limited income stream. This was truly a “widow’s mite” gift. MacKinzie commented, “I thought if there were a scholarship for people with that background, it might help not only ease that financial burden of obtaining higher education, but it could also send a message of ‘You are wanted here not despite your background, but because of it’ and that isn’t a message they get to hear very often.”
I was personally touched by MacKinzie’s story, matched her gift and pledged my full support to assist her with the fundraising for this scholarship. The Melody and Marc-Alan Smith Scholarship, named for her two youngest siblings, became a reality. Her goal is to reach $100,000 quickly, and some day her dream is to see this scholarship top $1 million. Just imagine the lives that will be changed because of MacKinzie’s vision through this scholarship. As MacKinzie sees it, “Not to be cliché but the cure for cancer could be out there. A complete reform of healthcare or revolutionary book writers, they could be out there in the foster care system and those resources could never be tapped into because that’s a population that the world has given up on.”
Your gift in support of the Melody and Marc-Alan Smith Scholarship, the Highlands Scholarship for West Virginia students or the general scholarship fund is the key to continuing the tradition of finding “hidden gems” like MacKinzie. Please join with MacKinzie and GIVE THEM A CHANCE. Through your gift, help our current and future students learn how they can make a difference in the world.