Gratitude: First Annual Scholarship Reception

Hilary Cummins

For years, the SALT Center has provided scholarships for students who could not otherwise afford our support. Because the SALT Center does not receive any state funding, our services are fee-based, which can be cost-prohibitive for some of our student population. Fortunately, our generous donors have stepped in and made a difference – a number of alumni, families, and friends of the program have made it possible for our scholarship recipients to get the financial support that they need to earn their college degrees. With this in mind, we decided that it was time to say “Thank You” with our first annual Scholarship Reception.


Last year, the SALT Center awarded over $100,000 dollars in student scholarships, which prompted David Cillo, Assistant Director of Admissions and chairman of the SALT Center Scholarship Committee, to propose an exciting new idea: a reception that would bring donors and students together for the first time: “We have incredibly loyal friends who contribute to our scholarship funds every year, and we have outstanding scholarship recipients who achieve academic success,” said Cillo. “I thought it would make sense to introduce them and give them an opportunity to thank and encourage one another.”


Once Director Rudy Molina signed off on the idea, David and the Scholarship Committee got to work. They wanted the event to be a memorable and elegant “thank you” to the donors who give so generously, and a celebration of our hard-working and dedicated students. The team decided to host a luncheon at the historic Arizona Inn, with ample time for mingling, a short presentation, and a small gift of thank-you notes to show our appreciation. A date was set, and invitations went out to students and supporters.


Daniel Linden, a Strategic Learning Specialist and member of the Scholarship Committee, coordinated a thank-you note-writing workshop for our scholarship recipients. They had access to a plethora of stationery, a template to help them get their ideas onto paper, and delicious snacks. “I was expecting students to keep their notes short and sweet,” says Linden, “but the majority of them spent the better part of an hour composing a heart-felt ‘thank you’ to their donors.” Some students even invited their supporters to stay in touch by including a phone number or an email address in their letter.


During the workshop, Daniel and David asked if any students would be willing to give a short speech on behalf of their peers at the event. Several students volunteered, and four were selected. These students spent the next few weeks carefully crafting their speeches with the help of Hilary Cummins, Coordinator for Development & Strategic Initiatives: “Our student speakers took their task very seriously – they were candid, thoughtful, and very polished.”


After months of planning and preparation, the SALT Center hosted its first annual Scholarship Reception. Students and donors shared a table and got to know one another. Director Rudy Molina welcomed everyone, followed by David Cillo, who introduced each student speaker, and presented thank-you notes to our donors. It was an incredibly special event for both students and supporters. We are very excited to make the Scholarship Reception an annual celebration of philanthropy and student success.


Nicole Venn, a UA and SALT Center alumna who graduated in May 2014, was one of the student speakers selected to share what her SALT Center scholarship meant to her: “I am so humbled and thankful for the trust and encouragement that this award signifies.”

Nicole always had to work hard to achieve academic success because of her learning challenge, but her first year of college presented some additional hurdles. After her grandfather’s untimely passing, her mother fell ill, all while Nicole was overcoming a physical injury of her own. These compounding tragedies had a significant impact on her confidence, and she even considered dropping out of school. Nicole credits who support a few good friends and the SALT Center with keeping her at the UA:
“I started to really engage with SALT Center services, and they 110% on every made a huge difference in my academic life.” With hard work and determination, Nicole was soon excelling in her courses, and regained her confidence.

In addition to providing her with academic support, Nicole said her scholarship also gave her increased accountability: “I owe it to the generous donors who support me to give 110% on every assignment and every exam.”

Nicole, who is now pursuing a career as a Nurse Practitioner, expressed eternal gratitude to both the SALT Center and our generous friends for their unwavering support: “I believe that education is the most transcendent gift one could be given. It allows an individual to grow, to be guided and shaped into a professional who’s ready to conquer the world.”

Nicole Venn, Psychology and Nutritional Sciences Major. Class of 2014.

Nicole Venn, Psychology and Nutritional Sciences Major. Class of 2014.



Thanks to a generous donation by the Stool family, we are excited to announce the endowment of our new Legacy Scholarship Award. This award guarantees qualified incoming freshmen full coverage of their SALT Center fees for each semester that they are enrolled in our program. We are prepared to make our first Legacy Scholarship Award in Spring 2015.

If you are interested in expanding this opportunity to other deserving SALT Center students by making a contribution, please contact Hilary Cummins, Coordinator for Development & Strategic Initiatives:

PHONE: (520) 626-7656