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Scholarship makes all the difference to theatre major from Texas

Daija Nealy performing in Cabaret: A Night to Remember at Illinois State.

Daija Nealy performing in Cabaret: A Night to Remember at Illinois State.

Scholarship support made all the difference for Texas native Daija Nealy ’19. The theatre major came to ISU as a freshman after having been recruited by universities across the country.

“I was drawn to Illinois State because of the personalized attention it gives students,” Nealy said. “I fell in love with the opportunities.”

While at ISU, Nealy starred in multiple School of Theatre and Dance productions, and was a company member for the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. She directed and starred in the show Cabaret: A Night to Remember. “The show allowed me to just be silly. I got to sing and dance. It’s my favorite memory from my time at Illinois State,” she said.

Nealy’s involvement was possible because of scholarships, including the Redbird Scholarship, a Talent Scholarship, and the Friends of the Arts Scholarship. As a first-generation four-year college graduate, Nealy points to the financial help as the extra motivation she needed to graduate.

“My scholarship was a reminder to me that hard work does pay off. With focus, determination, and generosity from others, I was able to do things I never thought I would be able to do,” said Nealy, who hopes to join a cruise line and perform as a jazz singer and actor.

Through Redbirds Rising, donors are changing students’ lives. Contributors to scholarships help attract and retain talented students. They give underrepresented students, and those demonstrating financial need, the ability to succeed on campus and beyond.

Friends of the Arts President Barb Dallinger ’81, M.S. ’01, is an ISU staff member and proudly supports ISU scholarships. “As a former College of Fine Arts grant recipient myself, I understand on a personal level what a difference that funding can mean to students,” Dallinger said.

“I benefitted from that help as an undergrad, and now it’s my turn to give back. Whether it’s a grant to cover artistic project costs or a scholarship to improve recruitment efforts, I know I’m making a difference in someone’s Redbird experience.”

To contribute to student scholarships, visit RedbirdsRising.IllinoisState.edu.

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