When Madison McKenzie’s professor held her after math class last Tuesday, McKenzie first worried that she was somehow in trouble. Then, when she stepped out into the hallway, she knew something truly unexpected was happening.

“I was very confused because there was a hall full of people with cameras, all looking at me,” says McKenzie. “It was all very shocking and I never expected it in a million years.”

McKenzie is referring to what happened next, when representatives from the Eastern Washington University Foundation and Numerica Credit Union surprised her with a $2,500 scholarship on “Giving Tuesday”—the unofficial day of global generosity. Numerica’s presentation to McKenzie, a junior from Nampa, Idaho studying social work, came complete with one of those giant checks made out in her name.

McKenzie says this gift will help her focus her attention on her studies and her grades, rather than finances. “I’ve been having to take out loans to attend school and this scholarship will let me take out smaller ones for this next quarter,” she says.

Numerica chose McKenzie based on her academic merit and financial need. Excelling in academics is definitely in McKenzie’s bones. She entered EWU with a sophomore standing because of all the college credits she had completed in high school. At Eastern she makes regular appearances on the Dean’s List.

While McKenzie is determined to earn her keep at Eastern, she also emphasizes the important role scholarships play for herself and so many others at Eastern. “As a recipient of other scholarships, I can say that it really does make such a difference,” she says. “It takes a little bit of the stress off going to college, and frees up more room in my schedule and my mind to love the courses I’m taking and just enjoy being a college student.”

McKenzie is scheduled to graduate from EWU in the spring of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in social work, a certificate in children and family support and a minor in Africana studies. After that she plans to enroll in the social work master’s program at Eastern. At this point McKenzie says she is unsure about what specific area of social work she’d like to pursue professionally—this chiefly because she’s so passionate about so many aspects of the field. One thing is certain, however.

“Whatever I end up doing, I’d like to be making a difference in people’s lives,” she says.