First Lady of the West Names 13 Aspiring Women as Scholarship Winners
SPOKANE, Wash. — For 24 years, Linda Lael Miller has written about fictional women of the West overcoming overwhelming odds. Now the bestselling author has rewarded 13 real-life women with a Linda Lael Miller Scholarship for Women for trying to improve their lot in life through education.
In the 7th round of competition since Miller established her scholarships, 1,600 applicants from all 50 states and Canada sought funding for their academic dream. Their goals run the gamut, from improving the lives of the elderly and working with poor young women to practicing family law and becoming a nurse.
The common denominator? Every one of these women is older than 25 and knows first-hand how scarce funding can be for non-traditional female students trying to finish college.
It was this vacuum that Miller was trying to fill, when she decided to start funding an annual college scholarship program for women.
The author of more than 70 novels, Miller believes if you educate a woman you will impact endless future generations.
What she didn’t expect was how inspiring she would find the women themselves.
This year’s winners include a mother who uprooted her two children and moved to Arizona so her oldest son could receive state-of-the-art care for his cancer, a 60-year-old Vietnam-era veteran who refused to let poverty or a series of abusive relationships keep her from earning a college degree and an aspiring nurse who worked two jobs to support her family while caring for her ill father and surviving her own brain tumor.
“So many women with hopes and dreams and the courage, strength and determination to improve their lot in life through education,” observed Miller.
In fact, Miller had planned to award 10 of the $1,000 scholarships this year but was so touched by the essays of four other applicants that she decided to fulfill their wishes as well. Miller says she hopes the funds will enable the winners to demonstrate to their children-and their children’s children-that through education a woman can overcome adversity and succeed in life.
To be eligible for the scholarship program, a woman must be a U.S. or Canadian resident older than 25 years and enrolled in an accredited institution of learning. Winners may use the funds for books, tuition, daycare, transportation and other expenses not usually covered by scholarships.
Miller says winners are chosen based on individual essays in which they explain why they need the funds and what impact the scholarship would have on their lives and the lives of their families.
Miller, who endured her own share of hardships before building a career writing novels set in the West of today and yesterday, is known as the First Lady of the West. This year, the Romance Writers of America presented the author with its prestigious 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award. Her current New York Times bestseller, DEADLY GAMBLE, will be followed by DEADLY DECEPTIONS in March.
The 2007 Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women recipients include:
Christine Sandoval, 31, Denver, CO
After losing her parents to illness, a brother in the line of duty on his second day as a rookie police officer and another brother in a car accident, Sandoval considered herself something of a grief expert.
“I became an expert in planning funerals and coping with great loss – all before the age of 25,” Sandoval admitted.
Maybe it was only natural that her own loss would lead her to a career in which she could help others walk through the darkness of losing a loved one. In the process of finishing her associate’s degree in general studies at the Community College of Denver (her award will go to tuition costs there), Sandoval plans to earn a mortuary science degree at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colo.
“I have become more passionate than ever to earn a college degree and begin a rewarding career in mortuary science,” she said. “I feel (with this degree) I will be able to help others who, like me, have experienced great loss.”
Jodi Rothrock, 41, Middletown, PA
After losing her grandparents to heart disease, seeing her father through open-heart surgery and coming to the aid of her 35-year-old brother after a stroke, Rothrock became determined to earn a degree that would let her help people with heart problems.
A working mother of four, Rothrock will use her $1,000 award to defray the cost of commuting to Lancaster General College of Nursing and Health Sciences, where she is studying to become a cardiovascular invasive technician.
Obtaining the education she needs to fulfill her dream won’t be easy, but Rothrock believes her motto – “keep showing up and never give up” – will see her through to graduation day.