“They’re successful people that are trying to help other people be successful,” McAllister said.

Morgan McAllister, a sophomore at the University of South Dakota, is studying elementary education and working on two endorsements in early childhood and kindergarten. She grew up watching her mother teach and was able to help her in the classroom. Once McAllister graduates, she would like to stay in the area around her hometown of Tyndall, SD to teach children in the grades of kindergarten to third grade.

“That age range is excited to be at school and are eager to learn,” McAllister explained.

But the road after graduation seemed daunting, knowing she would have to pay off student loan debt on a teacher’s salary. That’s when she read about the Jeanne Spilde Gonzenbach Scholarship online. The scholarship provides significant financial support during the selected student’s junior and senior years. While academics are considered, the bigger focus on who should receive the scholarship is the financial needs of the student. McAllister applied and was selected as a finalist to complete an interview.

When McAllister was brought to the dean’s office a couple months later, she was wondering if she did something wrong. She was floored and happily surprised to learn she was the 2018 recipient for the scholarship. It means even more to McAllister since she comes from a single parent household. While still in the dean’s office, McAllister called her mother, who burst into tears when she heard the news.

“It was humbling to know people understand what it’s like to be a struggling college student,” McAllister said. “My mom works hard to help me pay for school. This took a big burden off the both of us.”

USD junior Samantha Hyronimus from Worthing, SD, was the 2017 recipient for the scholarship. She is a double major in elementary education and special education, with the hopes of working with younger children in special education after graduation. She is also working on endorsements in early childhood and kindergarten. Samantha grew up playing school and making her brother be her student. As she got older, she felt a sense of accomplishment when she helped her brother with his homework.

Hyronimus is the first person in her immediate family to go to a four-year school. Student loans were already piling up when she came across the Gonzenbach scholarship on the School of Education website. Like McAllister, she decided to apply during her sophomore year and hoped for the best. When she learned she was the recipient in 2017, she was in shock.

“It didn’t feel real at first. It was a huge surprise,” Hyronimus said. “It feels like people see potential in me that they’re willing to give me this money so I can continue my education.”

Her mom started crying over the phone when Samantha told her the news. While Hyronimus does work a few hours per week, knowing she can focus solely on her studies has been a huge relief to her and her family. She said receiving the scholarship felt like an additional support system cheering her on. She also hopes later on to also give back, both professionally and financially.

“You’re helping a future teacher who may be teaching your children or grandchildren,” Hyronimus said. “It’s a cycle; you give to me and then I would continue that so it keeps going.”

That’s the hope of Max and Jeanne Gonzenbach, who created the Jeanne Spilde Gonzenbach Scholarship Endowment, that students will continue the cycle of giving. Jeanne graduated from the University of South Dakota with an elementary education degree. Education is very dear to Jeanne, with the importance of it passed onto her from her parents, and it’s something she passed on to her own children, all of whom earned their college degrees. She and Max had the opportunity to give back so decided to fund an endowment to support education students working on becoming the future teachers of South Dakota. Since its creation, four students, including Morgan and Samantha, have been selected to be recipients of the scholarship endowment.

“It means so much to meet the students and see how enthusiastic they are. You can tell in talking to them that they will make wonderful teachers,” Jeanne Gonzenbach said. “You’re doing something that is not only going to benefit them, but also going to benefit their students. It’s such a simple thing to do yet so rewarding to see what this scholarship means to these recipients and their families.”

McAllister is still taking in the fact that she earned the scholarship and is grateful to the Gonzenbachs for believing in her and her future.

“They’re successful people that are trying to help other people be successful,” McAllister said.