December 2019

Thousands of students receive scholarships and grants that make it possible for them to attend private nonprofit colleges in our state. Here are short stories about three of them, all recipients of scholarships provided through the Minnesota Private College Fund. Supported by donations from steadfast supporters, the Fund provides scholarships that help nearly 300 students a year.


Tatyana Beck

Tatyana Beck
St. Catherine University ’20

Major: Public Health
Phillips Scholars Program

Tatyana Beck came to St. Catherine University as a nursing student, recognizing that the St. Paul women’s college had a top-notch reputation for its program. But she recalls that after taking her first public health course, she knew “that was exactly what I wanted. Rather than seeing individual patients, I wanted to zoom out to the community.”

“This is what I’m passionate about,” the St. Kate’s senior continues. “Public health means giving back to my community — for me that means people of color, food insecurity, homelessness and issues of health disparity.”

Indeed, Beck is so passionate about public health that she committed to a five-year program: one year after earning her bachelor’s degree, she will also have a master’s in public health, with a concentration in community health.

Along the way, she has “loved epidemiology classes — taking statistical data and interpreting it to solve problems and recognize patterns.” St. Kate’s first-year course, “The Reflective Woman,” also made a big impact on her. “That was my introduction to social justice,” Beck says. “It was a real eye-opener.”

Beck has worked her way through school as a resident adviser in the dorms as well as a tutor-coordinator for the America Reads program and an assistant in the Center for Women.

But it’s the Phillips Scholars program that made the biggest difference, she says. As a student dedicated to community service, she won a $16,500, two-year scholarship, part of which was to go toward developing and implementing a summer project. The generosity of the Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota makes the program possible.

While the financial gift allowed her to be “less of a worker and more of a student,” it was the project part that changed her life, she says. Working with domestic violence shelter Women’s Advocates, Beck implemented an academic empowerment program for kids from low-income households. Says Beck, “Thinking of the communities I’ve been a part of and how I could contribute to them opened up for me a very necessary treasure chest of memories.”


Jess Echeverria

Jess Echeverria
Hamline University ’20

Major: Chemistry
Minor: Criminology and Criminal Justice
Certificate: Forensic Science
Galileo Scholarship

After a high school career-development course in forensic science, “I was hooked,” says Jess Echeverria of Rosemount, Minn. That made looking for colleges easy, as hometown school Hamline University has a well-respected program in forensic science.

She was also attracted to Hamline’s smaller community. “There are so many people at Big Ten universities, it’s overwhelming,” she says. “At Hamline I can talk with professors any time to get the help I need.” She appreciates the racial and socioeconomic diversity of the college as well.

Like Echeverria, all Galileo scholars must study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects at Minnesota Private Colleges; these institutions award 26 percent of all STEM degrees earned in the state. After working in a lab job after graduation to gain more experience, she hopes to earn a master’s degree in chemistry and forensic science.

Now a senior, Echeverria is studying criminology and forensic science along with chemistry. She has played saxophone in the campus jazz ensemble, taken part in chemistry club and a philanthropic society, and volunteered with neighborhood grade schoolers. And she does all of that on top of working at Target 30 hours a week.

With so many commitments to juggle, Echeverria is especially grateful for the financial assistance the Galileo Scholarship provides. “I come from a low-income family,” she says. “Being recognized for my efforts in this way has allowed me to continue my education, which is so important to me. Thanks for giving me a shot and helping get me where I want to go.”


Keeshawn Aleksuk

Keeshawn Aleksuk
University of St. Thomas ’21

Major: Business Administration–Real Estate Studies
Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children Scholarship

Keeshawn Aleksuk may have enrolled at the University of St. Thomas to play football, but he stayed to study business. “Because St. Thomas has such a legacy behind its program, it was a no brainer for me to study something in business,” he says.

That something turned out to be real estate, a discipline the Minnetonka, Minn., junior first became intrigued with while doing construction cleanup during high school. His inspiration? The transformed 1930s Armory building in downtown Minneapolis, for which his grandmother did interior design. “Seeing that building go from nothing to what it is today” was an exciting experience, says Aleksuk, who plans to eventually work in commercial real estate.

Meanwhile, along with taking a full load of classes, he works 30 hours a week as a housekeeper at Town and Country golf club and as a contract manual laborer. Of the latter he says, “it’s definitely a good workout.”

Back when Aleksuk was touring colleges, he wisely determined to “make sure I would love my school even if I didn’t play football.” After his freshman year, the former running back dropped out of football, but remained at a school where he “loved the atmosphere.”

“The students and faculty are so welcoming at St. Thomas. I toured some bigger schools but felt I would always be just a number there. At St. Thomas I knew I would get a solid degree and be known. Student-faculty relationships are so much more emphasized at St. Thomas,” says Aleksuk, “which allows me to connect with the material, ask questions of the professor and engage with my peers.”

Then there’s the experience of being a Ciresi Walburn scholar, a two-year leadership development program for Black men. Being with “other people who understand what I’m going through has made a big difference in my life,” he says. “And seeing all the excellence and intelligence of these men of color — we’re going to do big things with our lives.”

By Lynette Lamb