The perfect profession

Maria Lee says receiving the Cindy Stoller Polek Scholarship in Physical Therapy has provided more than money. She says hearing the story Stoller-Polek helped her affirm that she is in a profession she will enjoy for many years to come.

Scholarships mean much more than tuition

For Maria Lee, getting the Cindy Stoller Polek Scholarship in Physical Therapy not only allowed her to work less and study more. It also reassured the UW-La Crosse physical therapy student that she was preparing for the right profession.

The Black River Falls native fell in love with physical therapy during high school after spending many hours volunteering at the local hospital and job shadowing in the PT department.

“I quickly realized just how rewarding helping individuals either regain or modify functional abilities was,” explains Lee. “It was something I could make a career out of.”

“I quickly realized just how rewarding helping individuals either regain or modify functional abilities was,” explains Lee. “It was something I could make a career out of.”

She had heard about UWL’s prestigious reputation in physical therapy. So when Lee received her letter of acceptance, her choice was simple.

New to campus, Lee wasn’t aware of the growing scholarship offerings through the UWL Foundation, but soon discovered the many financial opportunities through campus emails and ads. After receiving a scholarship, the exercise and sport science pre-professional undergraduate continued to buckle down on academics along with getting involved on campus.

It paid off. For 2018-19, Lee added to previous scholarships when she received $1,000 from both the Lillian Neale Campbell Scholarship in Physical Therapy and the Carsten & Zedona Christiansen Memorial Scholarship for Physical Therapy. But her biggest award was the Polek scholarship, which provided $4,220 for two semesters. Her total from the UWL Foundation during undergraduate and graduate studies: $16,085.

Students across campus are benefitting from the increasing number of UWL Foundation scholarships available. Over that past eight years, the total amount of scholarships funded has increased from $467,000 to $1.2 million.

That’s thanks to the UWL Foundation’s success in securing $15 million raised through the Share the La Crosse Experience campaign that reached its goal a year early. But fundraising will continue through 2019 so even more students can benefit.

But Lee says the scholarships have delivered much more than money, which she’s extremely grateful for. She doesn’t have to worry about working long hours to make ends meet. Rather, she’s able to focus on her studies, as well as work as a research assistant for Professor Thomas Kernozek in the Physical Therapy Department.

Even more importantly, Lee has heard the message from Rich Polek about why the scholarship was created to honor his wife, Cindy, who was a beloved physical therapist before she died of cancer.

“His uplifting message about such an extraordinary individual inspires me and reminds me every day of just how fortunate I am to be in a profession of helping and healing others,” Lee says. “It inspires me to find positivity in each interaction and to be the best version of myself I can be.”

“His uplifting message about such an extraordinary individual inspires me and reminds me every day of just how fortunate I am to be in a profession of helping and healing others,” Lee says. “It inspires me to find positivity in each interaction and to be the best version of myself I can be.”

Lee says she can’t express enough gratitude toward the thousands of UWL Foundation donors who have graciously funded scholarships that have such a great impact on students. That paying forward attitude has inspired her.

“I want to do for others as so many before me have done for me,” Lee says. “The foundation and scholarships have truly made a huge impact on my life and I am excited to one day give back.”