A first-generation college student, Emily Bennett understands the value of a dollar as well as the importance of a quality education. Bennett is a junior majoring in special education – learning and behavior with an endorsement in early childhood education. She also serves as the Best Buddies chapter president at Illinois State University. Originally from Kansas, Bennett chose to come to Illinois State because of the tremendous reputation of the special education program.

Bennett is responsible for paying for her own education, which can be an immense source of stress on her well beyond staying on top of her schoolwork. To offset her costs, she worked two part-time jobs during the school year, one as a registered behavior technician where she provides direct behavioral therapy to young children with autism. During the height of the pandemic, however, she was unable to work and had no income to pay for school.

She received a very welcome email during spring break last year, informing her that she received the Roth Family Scholarship. The Roth Family Scholarship was established in 2017 by Leonard Roth and honors three generations of Redbirds: Roth’s mother-in-law, Clara (Schupbach) Kaufman ’32, Roth’s wife, Marilyn (Kaufman) Roth ’62, and Roth’s daughter, Cathy Roth ’90, M.S. ’92.

“When I opened the email, I remember screaming and handing my phone to my mom to make sure I was reading correctly,” said Bennett. “There were so many emotions going through me at once; I was in shock, excited, and relieved!”

The scholarship is a blessing, allowing her to work less, dedicate more time to her classwork and have a little more time for herself, a luxury she doesn’t normally have. This extra time has helped to keep her GPA at a lofty 4.0, an impressive feat which she has maintained over the last three years.

“I have made time to do the things I love, get more sleep, and spend a lot less time stressing about money,” she said. “I even picked up a new hobby, roller-skating, which has been a great way to exercise and have fun!”

This extra time is of the utmost importance, as it has also allowed Bennett to participate in the E-Tutoring program this semester, assisting a 10th grade student in geometry and chemistry. She is looking forward to starting her field-based experience in the fall, before spending her final semester at Illinois State student teaching.

After graduation, Bennett plans to teach in an early childhood special education classroom, working with children diagnosed with autism. At some point down the road, she wants to obtain a graduate certificate in special education – learning behavior specialist 2 and possibly a master’s degree in special education.

“I just wanted to thank my donor and all donors for your generosity,” said Bennett. “Scholarships truly change lives, and I will be forever be thankful for this one.”

Scholarships enable students like Emily Bennett to make the most of their college experience. To learn more about creating a scholarship for future educators, contact College of Education Director of Development Wilma Bates at (309) 438-4304 or wbates@IllinoisState.edu. Consider making a gift to the College of Education today.