Donna Lewis-Taylor was set on attending the University of Minnesota. The massive, urban campus spread between Minneapolis and St. Paul seemed like the ideal place to explore new and different opportunities.

And the nearly 350-mile distance from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities also seemed ideal for putting space between herself and some difficult memories.

But then Lewis-Taylor heard about Alverno through her sister’s friend, an alumna, and she grew increasingly interested after a visit to campus in September 2016.

“The more I learned about the College and its mission to empower women, the more interested I became,” says Lewis-Taylor. “After my campus visit, I felt such a sense of belonging.”

Encouraged by her admissions counselor, Lewis-Taylor applied for Alverno’s top scholarship, the Eleanor Roosevelt Scholarship, which recognizes a first-year student who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and service. The recipient receives a four-year, full-tuition scholarship.

Lewis-Taylor was among 60 who applied for the prestigious scholarship.

“Donna is passionate about empowering young girls to achieve their dreams, and she is actively involved in anti-violence efforts in Milwaukee,” says Wendy Powers, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students.

Lewis-Taylor’s childhood in Milwaukee was far from easy. Her mom, a single mother, raised her and her two older sisters on the north side of the city. As a young teen, she began to develop a relationship with her father. But it ended abruptly in 2016 when he was killed by gun violence.

At Riverside University High School, she played junior varsity basketball and immersed herself in her classes. She was an active member of the swing and gospel choirs and served as president of Riverside’s African-American Achievers program.

Lewis-Taylor was a business and accounting intern at Northwestern Mutual and helped facilitate summer camps for Discovery World. She currently works in the guest relations department at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Her involvement with organizations such as PEARLS for Teen Girls, Diverse & Resilient, College Possible, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Young Entrepreneurial Scholars program, and the COA Youth & Family teen program has given her additional leadership opportunities.

“Donna has a voice that cannot be silenced — soothing in song and inspiring in speech,” says Candace Morris, Lewis-Taylor’s College Possible coach.

Lewis-Taylor plans to study business or communication at Alverno and hopes to work in a social justice capacity or for an organization that supports troubled youth.

“My decision to distinguish myself from what is normally expected for people with a traumatic childhood is why I was able to overcome my experience,” she says. “I will continue to reach higher and uplift others along the way.”

Alverno is now accepting applications for the four-year, full-tuition Eleanor Roosevelt Scholarship Program for the 2018-19 school year. Learn more and apply here.