Meet the Students You Support
Donors are the reason students of all economic backgrounds access Saint Louis University's world-class Jesuit education. Meet some of SLU's outstanding scholarship recipients and learn how donors have impacted their college and career goals.
In her four years at SLU, Alicia Avellaneda-Cruz (CSB ’23) has become a significant presence on campus as an activist advocating for students of color. She is also heavily involved in Campus Kitchen and Labre Ministries, two student organizations that fight food insecurity and homelessness. But there was a time when Avellaneda-Cruz wasn’t sure if she’d be able to continue her SLU education.
“Bearing the cost and worries of my education was a lot at times. I constantly worried if I would be able to afford my education and get my degree, or if I would have to take a gap year to save up money to be able to afford my education,” Avellaneda-Cruz said.
Receiving The Black Family Scholarship and the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship made all the difference.
“As someone who is a first-generation Latinx student who financially supports herself, this means a lot,” she said.
With financial concerns alleviated, Avellaneda-Cruz has been able to participate in additional learning opportunities, such as studying abroad and working with Fortune 500 companies through the Global Immersion Program. As graduation approaches, she has big plans for the future — ones that grow from the service-oriented roots she established at SLU.
Avellaneda-Cruz shared, “After college, besides owning my own business, I want to open up non-profit organizations to help immigrants and low-income education students excel.”
Senior social work student Damaliha “Dom” Pryor (SW ’23) says she’s not like most SLU students.
“I do not wish to make a large impact or be remembered for the things I accomplished, but I really desire to do what I can, even if it makes one person's day better,” Pryor said. “I am a believer in quality over quantity and know that if even one person's life has improved — in any way — I have done something great!”
The first-generation student is on the path to do just that in her career. She aims to transfer her social work skills to the corporate world, coaching financial leaders and advisors on empathy, understanding and inclusion. But she’s not waiting for graduation to make a difference.
Pryor is the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, a competitive award granted to undergraduate students committed to social justice, academic success, service, leadership and cultural awareness experiences. As a member of the Backpack to Briefcase Mentoring Program, the Micah Program and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, she is committed to living out those ideals every day.
“Receiving this scholarship has lifted a financial barrier from my path to success,” Pryor said. “Being a recipient has preserved the trajectory of my college and professional careers. I am grateful to be given a chance to continue evolving into the businesswoman I aspire to be one day.”
SLU scholarships do more than provide financial assistance — they provide students with the financial freedom to make a difference in the community. Nick Weaver (Law ’24) knows this from experience.
Weaver is a recent recipient of the Dagen Public Interest Fellowship, a stipend that covers the living expenses of students working in low-paying or non-paying public interest jobs over the summer. It was created so SLU LAW students can pursue their passions and provide justice and legal services to all.
“For ten weeks, I worked at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, helping federal prosecutors prepare cases relating to drug trafficking and child exploitation,” Weaver said. “This was an extremely rewarding experience, and it put all of my classes thus far into perspective. The Dagen stipend was really helpful because it provided funds to help pay for items like parking and gas every day.”
Weaver also serves as the president of Street Law, an organization that runs volunteer programs at local schools and prisons.
“The scholarships I have received from SLU have given me the financial freedom to worry less about how I am going to pay my bills and focus more on establishing a meaningful career and giving back to the St. Louis community,” he said.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Weaver loves the community and wants to practice law where he grew up. He’s grateful to donors for supporting students who aim to make Missouri a better place and for giving students access to the kind of education that is unique to SLU LAW.
“Being a SLU-trained advocate means more than simply earning a license to practice law. The faculty here teach students to act ethically and use the law to benefit those on the margins of society,” Weaver explained. “As a school with a Jesuit mission, we recognize that the law can be used as a tool to further the message of Christ to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Between freshman and sophomore year, Camille Fuller (Ed ’25) found herself crying.
"They weren't tears of helplessness but of joy," Fuller said. "Joy knowing that I would be able to continue doing something that I absolutely love."
Fuller had just received the news that she'd been awarded the Lay Family Foundation Endowed Scholarship. In that moment, she went from worrying about affording tuition, books or even food, to celebrating that she could continue college without financial burden.
"This scholarship means the world to me because I wasn't sure how I was going to afford college for three more years," said Fuller. Fuller is a first-generation college student covering the cost of higher education completely on her own.
Like her fellow Billikens, the early childhood education major doesn't simply want to earn a diploma. Her degree will mean so much more — not just to her, but to the young students she wants to teach.
"One of my main goals as a Black educator is to be the face of education for my students who don't often see themselves in the curriculum or education," Fuller said. She aims to be a kindergarten teacher and then become a principal and administrator.
"I want little girls and boys like me to know that they, too, can do it," Fuller said. "They can be independent students and Black in college, and although it may be hard, if there is a will, there is a way."
When you support a scholarship, you know that you’re alleviating financial strain for a student. But you may not realize that in some cases, you’re helping students disrupt generational barriers. That’s what happened to junior Angelica Nieto (Doisy ’24) when she received the Accelerating Access and Success Scholarship.
"Scholarships are an opportunity for first-generation and minority groups to break the cycle of their family," said Nieto, who is a first-generation student. "It’s a chance to obtain a future they never thought would be possible."
The scholarship has allowed Nieto to focus on her journey to become a physical therapist instead of working multiple jobs to cover tuition and living expenses. It also has afforded her the time to join several student organizations, where she has developed her leadership skills and met a diverse array of people who have brought joy to her life.
Beyond SLU, Nieto hopes to inspire other young girls to continue their dream of higher education.
“A SLU education means paving the way for other students like me to continue their education,” Nieto said. “I want them to know it is possible to achieve their goals with the help of others and one’s motivation.”
Caroline Wright (Med ’25) had a full-circle moment last summer while working as a teaching assistant at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine’s Summer Scholars Program. The three-week program is designed to further expose interested youth to medicine and health care, and as a teaching assistant, Wright got to see their excitement as they learned about fun science topics.
“I was once in their shoes, dreaming about going to medical school,” Wright said. “And here I am, living out my dream.”
Wright is able to concentrate fully on that long-held aspiration because of the School of Medicine Diversity Award. She said the scholarship, which covers living expenses, is the reason she can dedicate her time completely to her studies instead of finding a job to pay her bills.
“It has blessed me tremendously, and it grants me more time to focus my efforts on learning how to help patients and becoming the best physician I can be,” Wright said.
While she’s undecided on a specialty, she knows one thing for sure: She wants to be a physician who embodies SLU’s emphasis on cura personalis — care for the mind, body and spirit — to help patients in vulnerable situations and ensure that no one is left behind.
“A SLU education goes far beyond book knowledge. This university is a powerful force in the community that teaches students how to never lose sight of what is important: caring for others,” Wright said. “This education equips you with the life skills necessary to leave a positive impact wherever you go and be a glimmer of hope in a world that desperately needs it.”
For senior aerospace engineering student Keegan Hager, a SLU education means everything.
“It has allowed me to look at jobs that I have always dreamed about having and empowered me to actually apply,” said Hager. His ultimate goal is to work within Boeing’s Phantom Works program, which focuses on defense, space and security. Without the Vice President's Scholarship and Catholic High School Award, however, Hager wouldn’t have been able to attend SLU at all.
“My scholarship has helped me work toward my goal, because without it, I never would have been able to attend a school with such an amazing aerospace engineering program,” Hagar said. “The School of Science and Engineering is extremely well known throughout the entire industry and is one of the best.”
His scholarships haven’t just eased his financial burden. They’ve also afforded him the time to join the SLU hockey team and the Commuter Student Association, two experiences that have impacted him immensely. He referred back to his first Fall Welcome Week as an example.
“As a commuter, we sometimes get left out, not being on campus. But the Commuter Student Organization did an amazing job making me feel welcome,” Hagar said. “They helped me meet friends who I will have for life.”
As a freshman, Sam Huster’s (A&S ’26) SLU experience is just beginning. Even so, his first semester was full of milestones and self-discovery.
“I loved the feeling of relief and satisfaction when I finished all of my first college assignments,” Huster said when recalling the fall term. Even more important was his realization that he wants to go into social psychology someday.
Huster isn’t the first in his family to be a Billiken — his sister earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at SLU, and she’s even a staff member now. Huster was able to carry on the family tradition thanks to one of SLU’s merit scholarships, which are awarded to incoming freshmen based on previous academic performance.
"This scholarship made it possible for me to go to SLU," Huster said. "If I didn’t have a scholarship, it would’ve been out of reach for me."
Attending SLU has already brought Huster countless opportunities for hands-on learning and classes led by world-class faculty. He’s particularly grateful for the lasting connections he’s made with his professors.
“Professor Clint Johnson is absolutely my favorite instructor. He makes his lectures engaging, and his classroom environment lets students feel comfortable asking questions,” Huster said. “I recently interviewed for a position at his research lab and am very excited to continue working with him.”
He adds, “Our professors aren’t just here to teach. They’re invested in your goals and educating you to make a difference in the world with your degree.”