College President Katie Conboy announced in an August press release that Saint Mary’s received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant will be integral in providing scholarships for Saint Mary’s pre-college programs and summer camps, senior vice president for strategy and finance Dana Strait said.
The endowment provided its funding through the Indiana Youth Programs on Campus initiative.
“Goals for the initiative include increasing the number of Indiana youth who obtain valuable postsecondary degrees and credentials,” the press release said. “It also aims to help colleges and universities strengthen how they recruit students, especially students who have been underserved in higher education.”
According to the press release, the college’s 40-year-old summer camps and pre-college programs typically introduce over 500 girls to Saint Mary’s campus each summer.
“With the Lilly Endowment grant, the College will have the capacity to host more than 1,200 students each summer,” the website reads.
Though the grant will not impact popular athletic camps hosted by the college, the press release said, it will support the Dialogue & Democracy Institute, the Embody Theology Institute and the fine arts and forensics programs.
With money from the grant, Saint Mary’s will grow these pre-college programs by allowing students to participate in them at “low cost to no cost,” Strait said.
“The Lilly Endowment is helping us to jumpstart expanding these programs offering financial assistance and we are committed to sustaining that moving forward,” she said.
Strait noted that Indiana’s college attainment rate is one of the lowest in the country.
“We’re not only flat but we’re also declining and COVID really exacerbated that trend,” she said. “We have fewer families whose parents don’t have college degrees sending their kids to college.”
The programs, Strait said, are designed to help reverse this trend.
“Part of our ambitions as an organization is to expand opportunity to offer enrichment and not only will that change brains and change perspective, but we believe that it will also advance degree-earning opportunity,” she said.
When families visit the Saint Mary’s campus, Strait said, they develop an important sense of comfort.
“Research shows that then they’ll be more likely to feel confident submitting the college application, submitting a deposit, navigating the financial aid process and subsequently enrolling,” she said.
The programs also aim to be a positive influence during summer breaks that could otherwise be a vulnerable time for urban girls.
Contrasting with many suburban youths, “vacations” for urban youth are “where you’re stuck at home while your parents are at work and you have nothing to do all summer long,” Strait said. “It’s a really different definition.”
Rather than spending their time bored at home, the programs aid urban youth in making good experiences over the summer, Strait said.
“It broadens horizons by giving them exposure to a wider variety of experience,” she said.
The programs, Strait said, embody the College’s goals for empowering women.
“One of the central themes is being an institution that provides access opportunity and empowerment to women at all stages of life,” she said.