Eagle excellence

Kemmesha Thomas, left, is all smiles knowing she’s receiving another scholarship during UWL’s Eagle Excellence Week.

UWL sophomore Kemmesha Thomas knows she stands out from her fellow students. “I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a student of color or because I have one arm, but people recognize me,” she says jokingly.

In reality, Thomas is really like most of her peers — busy. The Public Health and Community Health Education major is a heptathlete on the track & field team, does research with the McNair Scholars and is the events coordinator for Black Student Unity, among other involvement.

Thomas, a graduate of La Crosse Logan, prioritizes her busyness because she says it keeps her focused and motivated on being successful. “If I can’t be active and do sports, I get antsy and then I get distracted when it comes to homework,” she explains.

The one thing Thomas doesn’t have on her schedule any time soon is a job. “I don’t work during the school year because of all the stuff I’m involved in, so I apply for scholarships since I don’t have money coming in,” she says. “It was either do scholarships or go bankrupt.”

Thomas received the James R. Parker scholarship and is one of dozens of students who received a scholarship at the end of April during Eagle Excellence Week. In total, the Foundation awarded more than $1.1 million in scholarships at five events throughout the week. That number continues to grow as the UWL Foundation moves closer to reaching its “Share the La Crosse Experience” campaign goal.

Thanks to the generosity of donors who set up those funds, students like Thomas are able to enjoy a more well-rounded education. She looks forward to research opportunities and is taking full advantage of getting to know her culture.

It’s a safe bet that Thomas will be back at these events again as well, as she intends to keep applying for scholarships. “You have to keep applying, because if you don’t get a scholarship, oh well,” she says. “But when you do, it’s a lot of money.”