Heather Van Otterloo says she remembers the challenges that faced her as a first-generation college student.

A 2005 graduate from the School fo Education, she says scholarships were a life-saver when it came to being able to afford going to college.

“I worked really hard growing up to get good grades so I would qualify for scholarships,” says Van Otterloo. “Without them, there was no way I could have gone to school all four years.”

Today, the Carthage native teaches reading and writing for gifted students at Joplin’s South Middle School. Seeing the current crop of student teachers from Missouri Southern in her building served as a reminder of her time as a college student.

She recently became a first-time donor to the university’s Green & Gold Fund.

“Since I was a scholarship student, I thought my money could go toward supporting student who are no in the same position I was,” she said.

Van Otterloo says she initially entered the education program with the idea of teaching elementary school.

“I love little kids,” she says. “I’ve taught all the way down to first grade. But meeting other middle-school majors, I just felt like these were my people. The campus size at Missouri Southern was great, and my teachers and advisor wanted the best for me. It felt like we were a community. It was awesome.”

Van Otterloo says her ultimate goal is to teach at the university level.

“I was so inspired by my teachers, and I’d love to be able to inspire new teachers,” she says. “I want them to know that you don’t always have a perfect day, but it’s a super worthwhile career.”

Alumni donors are up 83% this year! If you haven’t made a gift supporting an MSSU program of your choice, please consider joining alums like Heather. Our fiscal year end drive is coming up…look for emails coming your way or visit our secure giving site at www.mssu.edu/giving.