Mendota BPW group offering scholarship

Jennie Espinoza, center, didn't think she would get accepted for the Mendota Business Professional Women scholarship given to women returning to school, but when she did, she put it to good use and now has a bachelor's and master's degree from Northern Illinois University. Espinoza celebrated the scholarship with MBPW's Jeri Atherton, left, and Paula Daley, MBPW member and principal at Northbrook School, where Espinoza used to be a secretary. (Photo contributed)

Woman returning to school will be recipient

By BRANDON LaCHANCE

Staff writer

MENDOTA – The Mendota Business and Professional Women have supported girls and women who want to receive an education for over two decades with scholarships.

In the spring, the scholarship applications are directed to students who are just graduating high school, while the fall application is directed toward women who are jumping back into school mode.

“This year we were able to give more money in the spring because Kim Abel, with Nightengales, made a donation and we were able to give away five, $750 scholarships in the spring to high school graduating girls,” said Jeri Atherton, a retired Mendota High School counsellor who has been with the MBPW for over 20 years and has been in charge of scholarships for most of her tenure. “We have $500 for a woman in the fall. We like to help a woman returning to school for career education.

“This year, we’d like to give the scholarship to someone in the medical field if possible because the money was donated in honor of Patty Moyer, who volunteers two days a week at Nightengales.”

Although the medical field is preferred, all women in Mendota and the surrounding area should apply.

The application for the fall scholarship is on the Mendota Business and Professional Women Facebook page or ask Atherton to send the application through email at [email protected].

Atherton is accepting finished application until Nov. 1 through email or in the mail to Jeri Atherton, 1100 S. Park Ave., Mendota IL 61342.

“We do not specify how this money is to be used and that is very unusual,” Atherton said. “We don’t care if they use it for gasoline, books, or shoes. We don’t care as long as they use it to promote their wellbeing in their education. And honestly, gasoline may be the biggest thing these days. Most of them travel. They travel to Illinois Valley Community College and to Northern Illinois University. A long time ago, we had one travel to Aurora College.

“It thrills me to see how these women go on and contribute to our community. They all live here. We gave a scholarship to a woman from LaMoille a few years ago and she is a social worker for the state of Illinois. How much better can we get.”

Jennie Espinoza, a 1999 MHS graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree (in 2020) and a master’s degree (this past May) from Northern Illinois University, didn’t think she was going to be selected when she applied for the MBPW.

But when she was, her appreciation put the scholarship to good use.

“It gave me more motivation to keep going because it’s hard to be a parent and a wife, and then add a student,” said Espinoza, who is a behavior therapist at St. Margaret’s Midtown Health Center in Peru. “It gave me motivation and hope to continue and finish what I set my mind to do.”

Going back to school after a break is not easy.

Without the support of her husband of 22 years, Rene Espinoza, and their children Adrian (graduated from University of Illinois in May), Bianca, who is attending University of St. Francis, and Isaac, a middle school student, Espinoza doesn’t know if she would have applied for the scholarship, went back to school, or finished her education.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my husband’s support. He has been the one suffering this entire time, too,” Espinoza said. “It shows you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do when you graduate high school. In my mind, I wanted to be a teacher. That was my goal. Life happened and things changed. You find what you’re meant to do.”

Espinoza only received the MBPW scholarship during her education journey.

She’ll never forget the assistance and how it helped her education and her mindset toward the community.

“This was the only scholarship I applied for or received. I did try at NIU, but I didn’t get the few I applied for. I used the scholarship for gas and books since I was commuting three times a week from Mendota to DeKalb,” Espinoza said. “I feel like a lot of people think that since they can’t check off a box that they won’t qualify for a scholarship. I didn’t think I was going to get the scholarship from BPW, but I suggest to other people to not be afraid and try.

“You never know. You could be selected, and the money helps with your future goals. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I was very grateful for that scholarship. It shows that being part of a small community, it is looking for ways to help out others. I was very grateful for that and in return I want to give back to the community. I probably won’t be able to give out scholarships, but I want to give back.”

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