How a $60 Gift Changed a Colorado Student’s Life

Students with Face Masks

Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Mariah Mayhugh, 2020-21 International Vice President for Division 4.

It was the fall semester of 2018, roughly six months since I had graduated high school, when the letter came in an email.

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Mariah Mayhugh

Mariah! it told me in excitement, You did it!

 Another email from Phi Theta Kappa. I had been getting them for months, ever since I enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College at age 16 under my high school’s dual credit program. My mouse hovered over the “delete” button.

When they first started coming through, I thought it was junk mail — I had received so many invitations to join fake honor societies in high school, I dismissed this one, too. But after a professor told me it was for real, I actually paid attention the next time the invite came around.

Until I saw that there was a fee to join: $80!

No way. As a student putting herself through college, buying textbooks and supplies, and mapping out everything down to the dollar for the next year — I couldn’t afford to spend $80 on a club membership! That could easily pay for a textbook, or even two, if I was smart and I bought them used. I only had a part-time job, because keeping my grades up was important to me since I wanted to earn scholarships and attend graduate school someday.

I felt so sad, but I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I knew some college clubs required fees or dues. I just deleted the email and moved on.

But that fall day, something told me to open it again — I’m not sure why. I read through the membership benefits and how prestigious it was until finally I saw something at the very bottom that I hadn’t noticed before:

Are you a student actively receiving Pell Grants? You may be eligible for our Golden Opportunity scholarship! Click here.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link and found out about a program set up for students like myself called the Golden Opportunity Scholarship (GOS). It paid for the international portion of the membership fee ($60), and my school covered the remaining $20, as well.

Thrilled that I might be able to join, I applied and a few weeks later, I found out I was accepted, and my fee was waived. I was beyond ecstatic! I attended my induction ceremony with my family in December 2018, and we all had tears in our eyes.

Since then, my life has been a whirlwind of taking advantage of everything Phi Theta Kappa has to offer and growing as a person because of it. When I attended PTK Catalyst 2019, I was so overwhelmed by all the people and the “PTK lingo” that I didn’t understand. I had never traveled outside of Colorado without my parents, and I was nervous about something going wrong, so I wanted to stay with my chapter the whole time. But over the course of the week and the Honor’s Institute event that followed just six weeks later, I gained enormous confidence and began to feel more comfortable networking and sharing ideas with members from around the country.

I even gained the confidence to start making changes in my community and pursuing professional development opportunities. I wrote a children’s book about absence seizures after noticing there were none on the market. This led to an opportunity to attend a professional development conference with some of the biggest names in children’s entertainment, such as publishers and representatives from Disney and Paramount.

The summit was a week-long event held outside the country and when I got home, I told my mom, “I’m so glad I’m in PTK, because this event reminded me a lot of Catalyst. Since I had already attended Catalyst, I knew what to expect and I was so much more comfortable.”

Because of PTK and programs like Competitive Edge, I already had experience with professional networking and large conferences. I was able to connect with long-term mentors and be fully present, despite feeling intimidated that I was the youngest one there by 10+ years! Phi Theta Kappa gave me those skills — not only to write a book, but to seek out and take advantage of opportunities at every turn.

For some people, the GOS might not seem like a big deal. But for me, it was life-changing. I gained access to an organization that has already set me up to succeed in the workforce and given me the courage to start effecting change in my community now. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without PTK or the Golden Opportunity Scholarship, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

How you can help: Make a gift to Golden Opportunity Scholarships online to help more students like Mariah, or reach out to your chapter to identify local needs.

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