For Scholarship Recipients, It’s All in the Family
Sitting in the sunroom at the Southern Scholarship Foundation’s Polk House, Kristin, Brianna and Amy Spyker open and close each others’ phones, reading text messages from friends and making calls on behalf of one another. When asked about their close relationship, Kristin announces with a groan that they are known to some of their friends as “Spyker Number One, Two and Three.”
For the sisters, two of three triplets and a sister 14 months older, the commotion suddenly stops.
One of them speaks up: “Who calls us that?!”
“I hate when people group us all together like we don’t have names!”
The girls go back and forth trading thoughts on this identification tactic, ending with one of them stating, “That’s the life of a big family, I guess.”
It is obvious that for Kristin, Brianna and Amy , a sophomore majoring in elementary education, a freshman majoring in social work and a freshman majoring in exercise science, respectively, their individual stories are as important to them as their common decision to attend The Florida State University.
“When I was going through the college application process I had a checklist,” says Kristin, the eldest sister, whose first and only choice was FSU. “It had to be a big college, and it had to have sports teams, a spirited campus where people were excited to be and in-state tuition.”
Her younger sisters took a different approach. They explored several universities, both in and out-of-state, focusing on institutions that had academic programs they were interested in, as well as groups they could potentially belong to.
“I never thought I’d go to FSU because I’m from Tallahassee, and I always had this idea that you would get lost at a large university,” Brianna says. “But when I visited and found out how excellent the FSU social work program is, I was so excited because it was very personal, like a tight-knit community. It was exactly what I wanted, and so I applied. Finding out we were accepted to FSU was wonderful.”
But the joy of acceptance was soon overshadowed by the Spyker family’s harsh reality—paying for four college educations within a year.
“We got in. That was great, but how would we pay for it?” Brianna says. “Our mom told us, ‘You will have to fight to get all of the scholarships you can get because if you don’t, you’ll have to take out a loan.’ She really didn’t want us to have to do that and told us she would help out as much as she could. But that only goes so far with four daughters.”
“I was all set to live at home and attend a community college, and wait to see if I could save money to attend FSU later,” Kristin says. “I didn’t want to. I already loved FSU. But we had to consider our reality.” Still, the Spykers held on to hope and applied for every scholarship available, just to see if something might happen.
And something big did.
The Spykers found out that each girl’s entire college costs would be paid for without loans through a combination of private donations, university, federal and state grants and college work study. Theirs is a story of all the pieces of financial aid working together to benefit eligible students.
“That was the most incredible gift we’ve been given,” Brianna says. “We’re so thankful for the people out there who recognize what kind of gift you can give to students who might not have any other way [to attend FSU]. They really want to make a difference, and they did for the Spykers.”
Through their actions as students and eventually alumni, the Spykers hope to represent well the community that supports them.
“Even in the smallest ways, I’m representing FSU,” Brianna says, describing her volunteer work with Westminster Oaks Active Living Community. “When I’m working as a volunteer, I strive to be a person of integrity, and a person who is empowering others and treating them with dignity.”
The Spykers’ diverse talents will impact all age groups: Brianna’s goal is to continue working with the elderly through social work; Kristin hopes to work with young children as an elementary educator; and Amy is considering medical school after completing her undergraduate degree.
“I think if someone has a degree from a university, they’re life-long representatives of that university. You should represent that community well and support it however best you can,” Brianna says.
In true sisterly fashion, Kristin interrupts Brianna and, with a slight grin, finishes her statement.
“I’m going to be the oldest person in the alumni section at the athletic events, cheering my head off just like I do now!”
In celebration of Women's History Month 2010, the Foundation featured three stories of women and philanthropy at The Florida State University. This story is the first of the three.