Paola and Melissa, two local high school seniors, have always dreamed of earning a college degree, but like many young people these days, the prospect of attending a four-year university seemed out of reach.
“Just weeks ago, my parents and I were discussing if college was even a possibility for me. They promised they were going to try their best even if that meant each obtaining two jobs and cutting our diet to just eggs for the years to come, as long as their daughter had a chance of pursuing what they couldn’t: a higher education,” said Paola, a student at City Honors High School in Los Angeles.
But this past December, Paola and Melissa’s dreams became a reality when both girls were surprised with the newly created LMU/Women in Entertainment Scholarship at The Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment breakfast that was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Demi Lovato presented each young woman with a four-year, full-ride scholarship in front of a star-studded crowd that included the day’s honoree, Oprah Winfrey, along with top female executives and stars such as Sherry Lansing, Jane Fonda and Maria Shriver.
The scholarships were presented in conjunction with The Hollywood Reporter’s five-year-old Women In Entertainment Mentorship Program, a competitive joint venture with the national non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters that selects 15 inner-city schoolgirls and pairs them with top-level women in the entertainment business. Paola and Melissa, who both attend inner-city high schools, have spent the past year being mentored under President of NBC Entertainment Jennifer Salke and Lionsgate TV COO Sandra Stern, respectively.
“Spending time with Melissa and getting to know her this past year has been a joy to me. She is a remarkable young woman with drive, sensitivity, warmth and commitment, who has what it takes to realize her dreams of becoming a writer, and this LMU scholarship will bring her that much closer to achieving her goals. I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” Melissa’s mentor, Sandra Stern said, adding, “I am so proud of her.”
“When I heard Paola’s name at the breakfast, I jumped for joy! Paola is such an incredible young woman and not only is she smart, driven and committed but she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. I will forever be grateful to LMU for this life changing gesture and belief in Paola. She is truly one of a kind – and to be able to have a front row seat to her future is the best gift I could receive. I know she will accomplish amazing things at LMU and beyond. LMU has changed her life and the lives of all who love her by giving her the keys to a fantastic future,” said Paola’s mentor Jennifer Salke.
Realizing that higher education is increasingly expensive and unattainable for many, LMU launched “The Fundraising Initiative: Aiming for Higher Possibilities,” a scholarship campaign aimed to reduce student debt, provide an education for everyone and remain affordable. This year, LMU School of Film and Television partnered with BBBS and the WIE Mentorship program to set up these scholarships to help achieve the overall goals and mission of the University’s campaign.
In September 2013, SFTV welcomed the mentees and their mentors to campus for a tour, lunch and an opportunity to chat with current students and professors. During the visit, LMU President David W. Burcham and SFTV Dean Stephen Ujlaki announced that one of the mentees would be awarded with the inaugural LMU/Women in Entertainment Scholarship. Ten of the young women applied for the scholarship, and when they headed to the breakfast on December 11, they were expecting just one name to be announced. But there was a surprise: two girls were awarded full-ride scholarships to LMU.
“We find it particularly gratifying to make a transformative change in the quality of somebody’s life. These scholarships will allow Paola and Melissa to focus on their education and to pursue their professional goals and personal dreams — debt free,” said Ujlaki.
“I am so excited to go to LMU and live the college life there. I can’t wait to live in the dorms , go to class, join clubs, and to see how independent I really am. I can’t wait to experience my first college class,” said Melissa, who will major in Screenwriting at SFTV. “Thanks to the Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Hollywood Reporter for giving me the opportunity to be in their programs, and thanks to LMU for giving me the privilege of attending your beautiful campus and providing me with a college education.”
We look forward to welcoming these incredible young women to campus in Fall 2015.
Watch the video of the girls receiving the scholarships at the breakfast here.