Prologue: The Midland Area Community Foundation sponsors over 250 scholarships to help students defray the cost of pursuing postsecondary education. A unique scholarship sponsored by the Community Foundation is the Esther S. Gerstacker Hiram College Scholarship is available only to students from Midland County attending Hiram College, Esther’s alma mater. The Community Foundation administers the scholarship. Students may apply annually and receive the scholarship for four years. The scholarship can cover up to the total cost of education for the entire four years!
Chloe Welch – In Her Own Words, Documented by Phil Eich
“Growing up, I used to pretend to be a doctor. Then, when my brother was 11, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. It’s a pretty serious heart condition that causes a thickening of the wall of one of the chambers in the heart and makes it beat less efficiently. It was pretty serious, and he almost passed away. He spent a little under a month in Ann Arbor at Mott Children’s Hospital, and during that time, I saw how the nurses helped him. They were so kind and supportive, and that’s when I thought, ‘I could do that.’
I applied to 40 different colleges. I grew up very poor—not knowing where the next meal was going to come from or if the water was going to come back on. So I said that I was going to go to whatever college accepted me and gave me the most money to go there. But the Hiram Cheerleading Coach, Samantha Campbell, talked to us once about the college when she was recruiting at a football game in Midland. She mentioned that there was a scholarship available from the Midland Area Community Foundation specifically to support Midland students who enroll at Hiram, so I figured I would give it a shot. I visited in March of 2019, and I committed right there. I loved it: it had a small-town feel, the people were personable, and I was able to go to nursing school while being able to cheer.
It’s the Esther S. Gerstacker Hiram College Scholarship, and renewable every year, which meant I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket for college. It was a huge opportunity for me, and honestly, thinking about it makes me kind of emotional. The Foundation realizes that not everyone makes enough money to go to college that not everyone is given the same opportunities. I was given a gift, and the only thing they asked from me in return was to be successful in college.
That makes me feel loved and proud to be part of this community. As soon as I got the scholarship, I knew that one day, when I’m able, I’ll be putting money right back into that scholarship fund to help give another kid from Midland the same opportunity.
I graduated in May of this year, got a job at Trinity Health in Pontiac, and became a registered nurse in the cardiac intervention unit. But I recently interviewed at MyMichigan Health here in Midland, and I’ll be moving back home to work here.
Hiram College is about a five-hour drive from here, but I found a home away from home. Like, I can’t even tell you how much of a blessing it was and how much I learned. Emotionally, culturally, mentally—I grew up in every way I could.
I just want to say thank you to everybody that has ever supported me, especially the Foundation. The scholarships they give can make such a difference.”