Continuing The Tradition


The Gratitude in their Hearts

. . . is hard for these students to express, after receiving the gift of an education at Ricks.

by Brett Sampson (88)

Certainly, like me, you always smile as you think of your time at Ricks College; it comes from a peculiar fondness common among alumni. Every year, more and more highly qualified young people hope and pray that they too will get to have "the Ricks experience." These hopeful students are dedicated to the gospel, as well as to their pursuit of a continued education. They each anticipate the uniqueness of learning in a spiritual setting.

Even after being accepted, there is a specific group of qualified, worthy students who would not have the opportunity to attend Ricks, were it not for the generosity of others. While all who come to Ricks College benefit from what thousands of tithe payers provide, scholarships largely come in the form of donations from individuals.

So often, alumni and friends willingly add to the scholarship funds without ever learning what became of their gift. There are those who establish specifically named scholarships and do hear back from the student recipient through thank you notes and pictures. But so many others give to Ricks College in smaller amounts, simply trusting it will be used wisely. Largely unheard are the students' individual expressions of joy and gratitude for that wise and caring investment.

I recently talked to just a few of the students now benefiting from the generous scholarship money alumni like you have provided. This is not only their chance to say thank you, but an opportunity for you to get a glimpse into the hearts of this high-caliber group, and see how their lives are being changed.

Kamber Poulsen is a sophomore from Aberdeen, Idaho. "And when I tell someone I was born and raised there, I mean it," she says. "I was born right in our home; my father delivered me." While working on her father's farm, she developed a love for the out-of-doors and somehow found the time to develop her abilities in sports and singing. She is in the middle of her general studies and plans on continuing with vocal performance at another school later. 

Because Kamber is a recipient of a private donor scholarship, she was able to write and thank the individuals making her education possible. But as we sat together in the new Kimball building on campus she added something significant, "I did thank them right after I received the scholarship, but they have no idea what I've experienced since then. I'd like to thank them again now but don't even know how I would express the difference their gift has made in my life.

"Besides the friends I've made, the thing I've gained the most from is the Church setting. When I first got up here, I noticed the difference right away; I mean, Church is even held in a classroom. Hearing the other kids' testimonies and the way the bishoprics associate with the students so much -- everything's on a whole different level.

"I love it because in class I don't just hear what some scientist said once, I get to learn what God and the prophets and the LDS scientists have to say. I would much rather learn on an LDS level of what Christ has taught than just trust somebody who is only relying on logic. I have the Church in my life every day and meet people who have the same standards and morals as me.

Concerning the many people who have given to the College, she said, "They are affecting people's lives for good, and something good is going to come back to them somewhere down the line because of their gift. Whether they get a personal thank you or not, I think in their heart they know that they have done some good, and it is going to help somebody."

Garet Barney, a sophomore from Orange County, California, is an enthusiastic business management major and singer. Aside from appearing in a musical in LA this summer, he's had the opportunity to use his singing talent and perform for President Hinckley twice now as a Ricks College student. One of the occasions was a performance of Come Unto Christ, part of the sacred works series commissioned by Ricks College. Reflecting on that evening he said, "I remember the prophet and some of the brethren were down there listening to us sing, and I was just waiting for the heavens to open that night. It was amazing. The spirit just kept testifying to me of Christ's love and of the atonement. I will never be the same."

Receiving the scholarship allowed Garet to come to Ricks sooner after his mission (in the New York, New York North Mission -- Spanish speaking) than if he had stayed home to work. "It was such a perfect transition going from one spiritual environment to another,"  he said. "I loved my mission and I really wanted to continue the feelings I had there, so this was perfect for me."

"I knew that my Heavenly Father had paved the way for me because, without the scholarships, we really wouldn't have had enough money for me to come. I feel really blessed, and kind of feel like I have a lot to live up to while I am here. I'm not going to let anybody down because there are a lot of people who have given me this opportunity. Honestly, I just feel like if I don't learn everything I can and then share with other people, I would really be wasting so many people's time and money. I feel like it's my obligation, and I'm grateful for it."

Garet acknowledges that not everyone can establish a private scholarship; but, he says, "Every donation that is given definitely makes a difference -- even if it was in smaller amounts, or whatever. It's like the parable of the widow's mite, and every bit of it counts. I just wish I could tell them all personally, thank you; thank you so much. I really am grateful for people like that -- all the people who give selflessly -- because it makes such a big impact." He thinks for just a second, then adds, "I think it could make an eternal impact; yes, I think it will."

Jeff Brimhall is a freshman from Mesa, Arizona, and is preparing for his mission. His scholarship means so much to him that he's taped it to his wall, "so I can see it every day when I go to bed,"  he says. "So any time I don't feel like doing my homework and I walk into my room, I'm reminded that it isn't my choice because I'm just paying for a small part of my education.

"The blessings I've received here are overwhelming, and the money I received has changed my outlook on how I need to act here. I can't wait to actually be able to help somebody else like they have helped me. I can't thank everybody enough and I just hope that I'll live up to what I know I should."

"Every night in my prayers I almost feel repetitious because I just constantly am thanking the Lord for my opportunity to be here and for the opportunity that I have to learn and the opportunity that I have that other kids don't have. If there is a kid out there that would work harder than me, then I am not doing my part. I know this is where I need to be, and my testimony is growing every single day. I just hope that I have the testimony I should have before I leave on my mission."

His mission preparation is certainly helped by the four returned missionaries he has for roommates. He says that they not only tell him about their missions, but he sees what it has done for them in their actions. Some of the things he's learned from their examples are how they schedule their time, pray before meals, study their scriptures, and try to serve those around them. "Now, I try and take every opportunity I have to serve. I have an assistantship scholarship in the library which means I go down there for two hours a day and help out in the reference desk and help out wherever I can. In other words, I actually work for part of my scholarship. I wish there was more I could do to give back but there is no way I can repay all of the blessings I have been given. I am kind of hoping that's what my mission will do for me -- allow me opportunity to repay just a little more."

"I will be leaving on my mission in December, hopefully. I did a lot of preparing and got the papers together before I came up here. I thought this would be the best place to be. I prayed about it a lot to know what I should do, and I felt that I needed to come up here for a semester because I thought it would be the most influential thing before my mission. It's apparent to me now that this is where I have been sent to learn before my mission, and I know that it's a direct blessing from Heavenly Father for me to be here."

Jessica Harris is a sophomore from Montpelier, Idaho, and is in the Interpersonal Communications program. "Communication is so important but so many people don't know how to use it. The reason I am taking these classes is because I can apply it to jobs, to my family, to my future spouse, just everyone I come in contact with."

I asked Jessica what she thought made Ricks College so unique and why so many people want to be a part of it. "Just the kind of people you can associate with here and the things you can learn that I think you can't learn anywhere else. Let me use an example," she adds, "Here, we get balanced instruction because you have teachers who are teaching by the spirit. They can teach you philosophy, but they teach you the philosophical truth, I guess you could say. They'll tell you what the world would teach, what they believe, and we are able to compare that."

In answer to what she would say to those who have given her this opportunity to learn, she said, "I would tell them that I am amazed that there are still giving people like that in the world. I mean it is awesome. I couldn't believe that people would give their money to put someone else's child through school. There are ten kids in my family so this scholarship for me is awesome. With a sister on a mission and another one here at Ricks, it was really hard to even think about coming here. But it has always been a dream of mine to come here. I came with my parents once when I was real little; I just remember the feeling I had when I was here and how much I wanted to come back some day and that just stuck with me ever since."

Brent Orton grew up in Rexburg and only considered going to another school as a back-up in case he couldn't go to Ricks. After a couple of semesters, he served a mission in Birmingham, England, and has recently returned home. "Coming to Ricks before my mission made me do some things that were a little harder than I had ever done, specifically in music and academics. I got to participate in a strong orchestra and play in the Messiah with the other musical groups. It was hard music, but it was a great experience; it taught me discipline and made me stretch myself. My testimony also grew while I was here as professors would cause to me consider new ideas. I would think, how do I know this is right? How do I know this is true?"

His scholarship has allowed him to return to Ricks this year. He mentions how nice it is to be around people who share his values. "In the mission field you can find people who are interested in talking to you, but that is not always so, of course. When I got back to Ricks, I would talk to people and everyone had a favorable response. You know, everybody was glad that I wanted to talk to them. And it's neat to be around other people who want to do what's right and be able to share bits of our testimonies with each other. That's probably the most important thing to me."

"I also feel like Ricks gives probably one of the greatest academic experiences available, and I am really grateful for that. I think that it's because the teachers have a testimony of the gospel, they want to be like Jesus and so they are trying to have a love for people. They really care about the students and they are interested in each student. If you need help, they don't brush you off, but are eager to help you out. They actually want you to succeed, which I think provides for a phenomenal learning experience."

"What people have done so that I can come to school is a selfless thing and is so fulfilling for me on the receiving end. I know that they have most likely given it in the spirit of love which really touches me, and I am grateful for that, and I appreciate being able to receive that. It has made so much possible for me and it reassures me that there are people who love and give in this world. I feel they make the world a better place. And I hope to be affiliated with Ricks College in the future. I do want to be able to help in similar ways."

Amazing changes are taking place across campus and within the hearts of these outstanding young men and women. I hope you have a sense for their humility and gratitude. They realize that many have made it possible for them to receive the gift of an education at Ricks College. I imagine that, as alumni, they will eventually look back and have a desire to assist another worthy young person with the opportunity to attend Ricks. As Jessica put it, "Being at Ricks just builds on the foundation you come with; then you go off to wherever it is you're going and are a light to the world, like it talks about in the scriptures. And other people will follow that light."

These five students are only examples of the 1,611 students the scholarship and financial aid offices at Ricks College were able to assist in 1999 through private and appropriated funds. While the amount donated to these offices was comparable to past years, the overall rising cost of tuition etc. poses a new challenge -- a heightened need to increase these funds and ensure the aid of at least as many students in upcoming years. When you respond to one of the phone calls or letters that come periodically, you are helping students like those I've introduced you to today. Of course, a scholarship is just one of the means by which alumni and friends like you help others enjoy the uniqueness found at Ricks College. To all of you who have given in any amount: the students thank you, and we thank you.

For information on how you can help continue the tradition at Ricks, please call, write, or check out our website. Expand the door of educational opportunity for deserving and needy students.

Call toll-free: 800-22-ricks
or: (208) 356-1128

Ricks College Development
220 Kimball                                    

Rexburg, ID 83460-1655

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