Be Inspired: Stephanie Hyde 2015 Scholarship Luncheon Speech

Stephanie HydeGood afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

My name is Stephanie Hyde. Almost one year ago exactly I stood before you as an undergraduate scholarship recipient. I remember the feelings of that day vividly: I was so nervous to speak in front of so many people, much like I am today. I was excited to be joining such a remarkable organization. I was proud that I had been chosen for such an honor. I was humbled by the company of my fellow recipients. And of course, I was deeply grateful for the opportunity that you saw fit to offer me. When my turn came to speak, I offered my words of gratitude and took my seat with the confidence that nothing that came out of my mouth was coherent English. Little did I know what a pivotal moment in my life accepting that award would be.

Three years ago I implemented a crude 5 year plan in my life. At the time, I was single and supporting myself on a modest salary, but I wanted to be more successful. I wanted to contribute more to my community. I wanted to finish college. So I decided to return to college to complete my bachelor’s degree in business and accounting with the goal of becoming a CPA. The plan was crude because I really didn’t know how I was going to accomplish everything I wanted.

Fortunately for me, I found out about your scholarship program. It goes without saying that the financial assistance you offer is amazing. But as I read more about the program, I found I was even more excited about the prospect of having a mentor. I’d never had a mentor until a year ago. 

For most of my life, my exposure to strong, professional women had been incredibly limited, because I grew up in an extremely sheltered religious environment where secular education was strongly discouraged. Of my peers, I was the only girl to go to a traditional high school instead of being taught at home, and many of the girls I knew did not finish high school in favor of marrying in their teens. As a child and teenager, I didn’t know any professional women. For that matter, I didn’t know any professional men either.

Until I was in my early 20s, I didn’t even know anyone who had gone to college. Coming from such a small world and having very little real life experience, a college degree seemed like such an impossible feat, but I knew I wanted one. Having no guidance was difficult, but I managed to make my way through by just taking classes and occasionally consulting with a counselor.  However, many times it felt very isolating and daunting to be navigating such a foreign world alone. During most of my journey through higher education, I had searched for mentors but hadn’t found anyone willing to take the time to advise me.

This past year I have been blessed to have a wonderful mentor who has not only given me fantastic advice, she has given me confidence that I am on the right path and that I can and will be successful in my career.

A year ago my life was changed. My life was changed by this scholarship, but not just because it helped me pay for school. The confidence that you placed in me boosted my own and empowered me to make changes to my personal life as well and I have grown tremendously as a result.  Today I stand before you a college graduate, I was recently approved to sit for the CPA exam, and I have a promising internship at an accounting firm starting in two weeks. My goals are all now well within my reach. And all of you were a part of that.

As I left the scholarship lunch last year, check in hand, I realized that what I had been given was more than just money. With your generosity came responsibility. You had made a deliberate decision to invest in my education, and I did not want to be a bad investment. I actively sought to make the most of my membership in FWSF and that is why a few months after I received the award, I joined the Endowment Committee because I want to make sure that this scholarship is available for generations of women to come. 

I have also pledged that I will personally fund one undergraduate scholarship when I am able.  Today, I’d like to ask you to join me in making a similar pledge. You all have the power to change lives, just like you changed mine.

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