Many students proclaim finding their self-worth, sense of belonging and a second family at Davis & Elkins College. The same holds true for MacKinzie Smith, except for a different and more personal reason.
Now, the 2019 graduate is investing a third of her life’s savings – $1,000 – to ensure that others who have walked in her shoes will gain the same joys and educational experience as she did at D&E. The Melody and Mark Alan Smith Scholarship to Davis & Elkins College was announced at the 1904 Society Gala. Named in honor of MacKinzie Smith’s two youngest siblings, the scholarship will benefit students in the foster care system.
When Smith was 13, her mother developed a medical condition that inhibited her from caring for her six children. As a result, the siblings became wards of the West Virginia Foster Care System. At one point, the Smith children were separated, reunited to live with one family and separated again. MacKinzie Smith recalls living in about 12 different homes before finding her current foster family just three days before starting classes as a freshman at D&E.
“Moving from home to home in the foster care system really gives you that feeling of not being wanted anywhere; but when I came to Davis & Elkins, I met people who did make me feel like I belonged here,” Smith explained. “People ask me sometimes how I got this far despite my background and they say I must be very special and very motivated. I really don’t think that was the deciding factor. I think I made it this far because I was lucky enough to meet the right people who were willing to take a chance on me even when the rest of the world wasn’t. Other kids from that background deserve that chance, too.”
Smith’s concern for Melody and Mark Alan’s future inspired her to establish the scholarship.
“I really do believe that other children with the same background as me could make it just as far, if not farther if they were also able to find those people who are willing to take a chance on them and be a major part of their lives like people here at D&E,” Smith said. “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 people of that background get to hear very often.”
With dual degrees in chemistry and biology, Smith is ready to step out into the world where she feels she belongs.
For further information on the Melody and Mark Alan Smith Scholarship or to make a gift, call D&E Senior Director of Institutional Advancement Cathy Nosel at 304-637-1339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.