Meet Shanell Yenchik: 2017 Dream Award Recipient - Scholarship America

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Meet Shanell Yenchik: 2017 Dream Award Recipient

By Scholarship America

We are thrilled to have such a diverse and interesting class of Dream Award recipients! Shanell’s story continues our series on each of the ten 2017 students. Throughout the next few months we will be posting more stories on a bi-weekly basis featuring these amazing individuals. Check out previous student stories by visiting our Success By Degrees blog.

Shanell Yenchik_2.jpgAfter her parents’ divorce, Shanell Yenchik found herself living on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona with her grandmother and family. While the circumstances for the move were heartbreaking, the reservation became a wonderful refuge for Shanell and her two sisters. Playing with her siblings outdoors is among her fondest memories of the reservation.

However, while Shanell enjoyed the outdoors, her mother struggled to support her family. Their family’s only source of income was the sale of traditional Navajo jewelry that her mother crafted. The electric and water would be turned off for periods of time until her mother could sell enough jewelry to pay the bills. As Shanell got older she would learn her mother’s craft and help her make jewelry to sell. Living through these circumstances made her more resilient because Shanell realized that life continues to go on and there really is nothing to be afraid of.

In high school, Shanell traveled an hour by bus to get to school. Her participation in clubs and activities meant that sometime she wouldn’t get home until 7 pm.

“In Kindergarten I dressed up as a doctor. I don’t remember ever not liking school,” Shanell said, explaining her active student life.

Besides serving at the president of student council and leading recycling and sustainability efforts with the Go Green club, Shanell joined the Upward Bound program. Upward Bound was a partnership between her high school and Southern Utah University to provide test prep and college admissions counseling to low-income and first generation college students.  In the summers, Shanell participated in a six-week summer program offered at the university campus. Over those weeks Shanell moved into the dorms on campus and took math and science courses taught by university professors.

“Upward Bound made it seem like college was a possible option for me,” Shanell said.

She enrolled in a community college that had a satellite campus near the reservation. She was successful in the classroom, but the school lacked the academic rigor she was looking for, and she wasn’t sure if she could afford tuition at a four-year university. Despite her uncertainty, she registered at Northern Arizona University, hoping everything would work out. That’s when she found Scholarship America’s Dream Award.

Finding out that she was one of the 10 recipients, Shanell surprised her mom with the news.

“I was scared about transferring; now I don’t have to worry,” Shanell said, “That made my mom really happy.”

Shanell is wrapping up her first semester at NAU, where she is studying Sociology with an emphasis in ethnic studies. Her experience in the Upward Bound program still shapes her life as she wants to work to help more minority students gain access to college. Scholarship America is proud to play a part in helping Shanell achieve her dreams.

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