“I grew up on welfare,” says Minneapolis native Mariam Sharpless. “To go from North Minneapolis to a school like St. Kate’s — I thought, this place looks like a castle! It seemed amazing for a kid like me.”

Because her parents cannot help her financially, Sharpless is especially grateful for the Securian Foundation Scholarship, which is allowing her to complete her economics degree while taking on fewer loans. Securian Foundation Scholarships are awarded to students in the business field who demonstrate academic strength and financial need. “This directly affects my life,” she says. “I can eat more, sleep more, and focus on school more.”

The schoolwork Sharpless focuses on most is economics, a major she realized was “not just about far away Wall Street stuff but also about welfare and community development and social issues. Taking an economics and social issues class showed me how economics directly applies to people.”

While on campus, Sharpless has done peer mentoring for the multicultural office, worked as a research assistant for an economics professor, and served as an RA in the residence halls. She also works 30 hours a week off campus as a personal care assistant.

She was drawn to St. Kate’s for its liberal arts emphasis, its Catholic values, its smaller class sizes, and its all-women environment. “In my senior economics seminars, all my classmates are intellectual women majoring in economics,” she says. “If I was at the U of M, that same class would be mostly men.”

It was a woman — her grandmother — who encouraged her to pursue higher education when others told her it wasn’t necessary. After college she hopes to continue her education, earning either a law degree or a master’s degree in business. “It’s the grants and aid, the scholarships like this one, that made college possible for me,” she says. “Thanks for giving me a chance.”