Though receiving the Give Back scholarship turned out to be one of the most positive, impactful experiences for Courtney Simmons, it didn’t start out that way. Little did Courtney know that the call to the principal’s office in her 8th grade year would turn her mother’s sheer disappointment to overwhelming joy and pride, in a matter of minutes. Courtney enjoyed recalling on that pivotal day in 2006.

“I was called into the principal’s office, and they called my mom to come to the school as well,” Courtney explained. “My mom said that she was mad at me the entire way to the school, as she could not believe I had got into trouble and was in the principal’s office. When she arrived, she automatically knew that I had received the scholarship and began to cry. She said she will never forget being so upset with me.”

Now a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Family and Child Studies, Courtney went on to pursue her masters in Applied Behavior Analysis from Kaplan University, graduating in 2017. Presently, Courtney is working towards her PhD in Developmental Psychology in Children and Adolescents. Though still consumed in schoolwork, she’s employed as a case manager in the Early Intervention system, working with young toddlers and newborns with developmental delays.

“Receiving the Give Something Back Scholarship was heaven sent,” Courtney said. “It paid for my entire undergraduate tuition, allowing me to focus on my course work and not have to stress about paying for school. Furthermore, if I did not receive the scholarship, I would not have been in the position to pursue advanced degrees like my masters and PhD.”

Give Back put Courtney through her undergraduate program, opening opportunities for employment before she graduated from Northern Illinois. This allowed her to obtain stable employment for her family, continue her educational pursuits, and even buy a house—at the spry age of 23.

“For me, this was the most rewarding thing that I could have done for my mother,” Courtney said. “She was a single parent who sacrificed everything to raise my sister and I. I am now able to use my academics to pay her back, by her not having to worry about sending me through school.”

Courtney is excited to use what she’s learned through her years of education for good—spending her days helping children and families live to their fullest potential. In time, she hopes to teach at the collegiate level, mentoring students along their educational journey’s.

“The best advice that I can give recent recipients of the scholarship is to take full advantage of the program and the position that they put you in,” Courtney said. “You are entering college with a foot ahead of the majority of students there. Use this financial support and other resources the scholarship places in front of you to put yourself into a good position. Take your academics seriously, as it will take you far.”

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Courtney. We look forward to seeing your hard work impact many young lives with dreams just like your own.