At a young age, Samantha Ross knew she loved animals and one day wanted to have a career that enabled her to work with them. Although she never had any pets of her own, Ross would always feed and care for stray animals near her home in Vicksburg, Mississippi. As the first recipient of the Annexstad Family Foundation Scholarship, the Mississippi State senior is on a path toward fulfilling her dream.
The Annexstad Scholarship has made a tremendous difference for Ross in her time at Mississippi State. With the help of the scholarship program, Ross has been able to pursue her education and will graduate in May 2015. She was first awarded the scholarship her sophomore year of college, and, by meeting the necessary criteria, she will continue to receive the financial award until she graduates.
Ross is studying to earn a degree in veterinary medical technology through the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She learned of the excellent reputation of Mississippi State’s veterinary college as she researched majors during her senior year of high school. Initially, Ross chose to pursue the degree because of the length and affordability of the program.
“I decided on my degree by asking the question, if I wasn’t going to be paid, what would I want to do for the rest of my life?” said Ross. “MSU’s vet school is also in Mississippi and only a few hours from my home in Vicksburg, so that was a plus, too.”
Mississippi State has one of 21 accredited veterinary technology bachelor degree programs in the country, and it is only one of three at a college of veterinary medicine. The MSU vet tech program offers students the opportunity to complete clinical rotations alongside veterinary students. Vet tech majors become educated in pre- and post-surgery responsibilities as well as inducing and monitoring anesthesia, among other work. Graduates who become vet techs will be an integral part of the veterinary medical profession.
Because Ross did not have the Annexstad scholarship her freshman year, she struggled financially. Her father died when she was an infant, and her mother has held numerous jobs to support the family. To remain in school, Ross had to ask family and even friends for financial support. Fortunately, the Annexstad scholarship now covers most of her educational expenses.
“I no longer have to worry if I’m going to be able to register for classes each semester or buy books on time,” Ross said. “It’s a blessing to have been awarded the Annexstad scholarship.”
The Annexstad Family Foundation established the scholarship to help students, like Ross, who show a significant need for financial assistance and have the potential and character for a promising future. The scholarship is usually awarded to a student who participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. However, Annexstad representatives were impressed with Ross’ essay and awarded her the scholarship even though she wasn’t affiliated with the organization.
The founders of the Annexstad Family Foundation, Al and Cathy Annexstad, share a similar history with Ross. They both lost a parent at a young age and benefitted greatly from adults in their communities who provided care and support. The couple began their foundation because they understood how much an adult could impact a youth’s life, and they chose to help improve students’ ability to receive a higher education.
When Ross graduates, she plans to work near her hometown where her mother still lives. After she establishes herself in her professional career, she says, a priority for her is to help financially struggling students because she understands the challenges they face firsthand.
“I want to donate to a scholarship or maybe even start one of my own when I can,” said Ross.
Alumni and friends who wish to support scholarships in any academic area of Mississippi State may contact Jack McCarty, executive director of development for the MSU Foundation, at 662-325-9580 or email@example.com.
By Laura Ladner, Photography by Russ Houston