Scholarships Put Success Within Reach for Those Facing Daunting Odds

November 3, 2014

Seniors Thomas Noah and Austin Alfredson (Photo: Yuri Vaysgant)

Look at Thomas Noah ’15 now and it’s hard to imagine the doubts he shouldered as a 10-year-old boy who had just relocated from Liberia to Framingham, Massachusetts. Facing cultural and financial challenges – along with the challenges of growing up in a single-parent household – he remembers thinking his circumstances had created an impenetrable barrier between him and the opportunities enjoyed by others.

“Back then I couldn’t imagine myself being where I am now,” says Thomas, a senior healthcare administration major and campus leader whose studies have taken him to Manhattan and Florence, Italy. “I’ve gained so much more confidence.  Even among students with so much more, it gave me the confidence that I can be that and better and helped me know it’s not really about my financial status. It’s much more than that.”

Stonehill’s Congregation of Holy Cross mission is centered on social justice and compassion and the College works hard to put a Stonehill education within reach of students who might not otherwise be able to access it. More than $37 million was dedicated to scholarships and grants last year alone, the majority being distributed through our need-based Light and Hope Award. And with the generous support of numerous individual donors and charitable organizations, Stonehill has been able to offer a number of other scholarships that have made barriers disappear and made dreams a reality.

Thomas Noah and his longtime friend Austin Alfredson ’15, a communication major and senior class president, are two recent beneficiaries of one of them: the Ronald E. Burton Scholarship. The Scholarships are offered by the College to two academically talented and financially needy students who are alumni of the Ron Burton Training Village, which brings together youths – many from troubled and under-resourced backgrounds – and guides them in some of life’s most essential areas: education, social skills, morals, values, leadership and fitness. 

 “I’m reminded every day how blessed I am to have these scholarships, looking back is a constant reminder of how far I’ve come.” 
 Thomas Noah ’15

Like Thomas, Austin grew up in a single-parent home, one where circumstances forced him to move six times in as many years. “This was especially difficult as I have a learning disability that has always put me at a disadvantage compared to my peers,” he says. “And I struggled. I lacked the confidence to see myself as any more than I was, a boy with no direction.”

Developing into Leaders

The Ron Burton Training Village was a turning point in both their lives. Thomas and Austin came to the program as campers in need of a guiding hand and left as leaders offering their hand to others.

“Some of the struggles that our kids go through are so immense and so hard,” says Ron Burton Jr., whose father founded the Training Village. “But for them to be able to turn that struggle around and come to a place like Stonehill and further their education, it changes the entire trajectory of their lives.”

“It wasn’t until [RBTV] that I realized I could dream of a better future for myself,” says Austin. “It taught me the importance of seizing the opportunities that life has to offer and, most importantly, that if you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.”

“Without the generosity of our alumni, I know that some of the most promising of our students could not graduate and go on to help create a more just and compassionate world.”
Eileen O’Leary, assistant vice president for Student Financial Assistance

And the RBTV experience helped both men make something happen. In addition to receiving Stonehill's Burton Scholarship, they also received one from the Yawkey Foundation, making it possible to attend Stonehill.

“Each year I encounter wonderful students who without financial assistance could not attend or remain at the College,” says Eileen O’Leary, assistant vice president for Student Financial Assistance.  “When alumni make gifts to Stonehill for scholarships to support needy students, I am immensely grateful.  Without the generosity of our alumni, I know that some of the most promising of our students could not graduate and go on to help create a more just and compassionate world.”

Seizing Every Opportunity

Yawkey Foundation scholarships are designed to help under-served young people who have shown talent and motivation, traits that both Austin and Thomas have shown. They seized every opportunity that came their way while at Stonehill – from studying abroad and completing internships to serving as leaders and mentors. Thomas has been a Hall Council leader, a peer mentor, a member of the Student Government Association and a leader in the ALANA-A Big Sister Big Brother program. Austin, who recently completed an ESPN internship in London, has as also been a peer mentor, a H.O.P.E. trip leader, a student ambassador and leader in SGA, which culminated in his election this year as class president.

Both of them say their stories are textbook examples of how compassion and philanthropy changes lives.

“If it wasn’t for the Yawkey Scholarship and the Ron Burton Scholarship, I would not be here today,” says Austin, who as class president also serves as co-chair of the Legacy Committee, through which the Senior Class comes together to start their legacy at Stonehill and positively impact students for years to come, whether it is through a scholarship or campus improvement.

Thomas expresses similar sentiments.

 “I’m reminded every day how blessed I am to have these scholarships,” he says. “Looking back is a constant reminder of how far I’ve come.” 


A Commitment to Affordability

Stonehill College is committed to helping students overcome hurdles big and small and more than 90 percent of students last year were beneficiaries of financial aid. The average award package was $29,668 (including scholarships, grants, federal student loans and work-study) and the majority of those eligible for aid had 100% of their need met. Learn more about financial aid.

In addition to support provided directly by the College, gifts from alumni, parents and friends create a pool of available funds that provide our students with scholarships, community service opportunities, co-curricular programs and other resources, such as new buildings and sports facilities. Learn more about giving.


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