Shalynn Fjeld is normally pretty soft-spoken, but the 18-year-old started screaming when she got the news that she’d won a $10,000 college scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association.
“She was upstairs” and screamed, recalled her mother, Angela Levang. “I thought something was wrong. She said, ‘Mom! Mom!’ Then, we cried.”
“I wouldn’t be able to go to college without it,” Fjeld said Thursday. “It kind of is a lifesaver.”
Fjeld sat at the Café M, holding her sleepy 2-week-old daughter, Piper, who wore a pink dress and white satin headband. Fjeld graduated from Belgrade High School in June and will enter Montana State University at the end of this month. A single mom, she plans to major in accounting, while taking care of her little girl.
“I love it,” she said of being a new mom. “I’m in love with it.”
MSU is kicking in another $5,000 to the scholarship, she said.
Fjeld is one of 50 Montana students to win the Horatio Alger Scholarship this year. High school seniors can apply if they have at least a 2.0 GPA, have financial need and can “demonstrate perseverance in overcoming personal challenges.” They must plan to attend MSU, the University of Montana or an affiliated campus.
The association’s mission is to support young people who “show incredible promise and have overcome difficult circumstances.” Funds come from association members who have overcome adversity. The Montana scholarships are funded by the foundation set up by Dennis Washington and his wife, Phyllis.
The scholarship is named for Horatio Alger, an American writer of the 1800s, known for his “rags to riches” novels about plucky young men who overcome poverty through “hard work, determination, courage and honesty.”
Fjeld said a high school counselor told her about the scholarship, but she almost didn’t apply.
“She said, ‘There are kids who deserve this way more than I do,’” her mom recalled.
In her application essay, Fjeld wrote about several challenges. As the oldest of five kids, she said, her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college.
After her parents divorced, she moved to Scobey with her dad and started high school there. In November of her senior year, she moved to Belgrade High. Despite changing schools, she managed to raise her GPA to 3.8.
During high school, she was a member of the National Honor Society, Business Professionals of America, Language Club, Art Club president and an elected Student Council representative. She played varsity volleyball four years, and varsity basketball and varsity golf three years.
During her senior year, she said she worked 30 to 40 hours a week at Five Guys burgers in Bozeman.
“I made it work,” Fjeld said. She worked so many hours so that “I could have this time off with my daughter before school starts.”
She also won a scholarship from the Belgrade Kiwanis Club.
Fjeld plans to live with her parents during college to save money. She’s searching for day care for Piper, putting her name on waiting lists.
She said she chose to major in accounting because she took two years of accounting in high school and loved it.
“She’s very independent,” her mom said. “She knows what she wants and goes for it.”
Fjeld said her advice to other students concerned about the cost of college is: “It never hurts to apply for scholarships, even if you don’t think you’re going to get it.”
Other local Horatio Alger scholarship winners are Logan Moody of Bozeman, and Denise Benden, Jymie Walker and Zoe Randall of Livingston.
By Gail Schontzler, Bozeman Chronicle staff writer
Article originally published by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on August 4, 2017.
Reprinted with permission.