Wanda Sarkey-Wesley, local millionaire and OCU graduate, decided to give back to her alma mater by creating a scholarship in her name. Any current or future student can apply by submitting a headshot and resume, as well as completing the 24-page application, consisting of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go to OCU without my full-ride scholarship, so now that I have more than enough funds to support myself and my emotional support animals, I wanted to give opportunities to kids like me,” Sarkey-Wesley said. “You can’t be too careful with these scholarships, though. I want to make sure my money is going to the most deserving candidate.”
After evaluating each application, which must be submitted a year in advance, Sarkey-Wesley narrows her choices down to eight candidates. Each student then visits her home for a three-hour interview. From there, she narrows it down to three finalists and picks a day to shadow each of them.
“She followed me around all day at school and at my after school job at Jamba Juice, even when I went to the bathroom,” said Keith James, economics sophomore. “Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate any scholarship I can get, but it seemed like a lot for $50.”
To ensure the money went directly to her recipient’s education, Sarkey-Wesley splits the payments by year. When she declared James the winner, $25 was transferred to his student account. To renew that amount for his sophomore year, he had to mail Sarkey-Wesley a full transcript signed by each professor, as well as a copy of all of his essays and a complete list of his friends, categorized by MBTI personality type.
Harold Heathen, OCU financial aid counselor, said the scholarship is not worth the stress it causes students and staff.
“This is a load of shit,” he said. “I will literally pay students to stop applying for this scholarship.”
Sarkey Wesley said she is contemplating splitting the scholarship next year into two $25 awards.
“There are just so many worthy candidates, and I feel it’s my duty to spread the wealth as much as I can,” she said. “After all, I’ve been there. I used to be these students, so I can relate.”