Kathy Pace Scholarship Recipients: Where Are They Now?
70 percent of college students report feeling stressed about their finances according to one study done by Ohio State University. Scholarships present a wonderful opportunity for college students to not only be alleviated of the pressure of making money just to go to school, but it gives them the opportunity to place that focus on their education. The Kathy Pace Scholarship program was created to help that effort for technology students. We sat down with previous Kathy Pace Scholarship winners to catch up and see how this scholarship helped bring them to where they are today.
Kathy pace scholarship 2015 Recipient: Lizette flores
Lizette Flores entered in to win the Kathy Pace Scholarship in 2015. Her discovery of the Kathy Pace Scholarship was unique because Lizette had the honor of getting to know Kathy Pace herself before her passing.
QUESTION: When did you receive your Kathy Pace Scholarship?
ANSWER: "In 2015... if i'm not mistaken."
QUESTION: Where were you at that time in your education?
ANSWER: "I was a sohpomore in college, I was at the University of Houston and I was majoring in Computer Engineering Technology. I heard about the scholarship through Pace's great aunt. At that point, I had a couple other scholarships. It helped me because the cost of university, and classes, and parking, and everything- it really adds up. So I was able to get through college without having any loans afterwards that I was going to be required to pay back. So that- having that less stress there was so great. I worked my butt off to get all these scholarships and then it made college life very easy instead of having to do work and also study, so that was pretty awesome and it was a huge blessing."
QUESTION: When did you graduate?
ANSWER: "I graduated in June of 2017. After that, I kind of took a break. So during that time, I took more time to do community service type of things, [like] tutoring. I wasn't- since I didn't have that force where I needed to be working and paying off loans, I had a chance to do that and try to help out the community. My mind was always set to- to get into Centre here, like from the start. I was really set on that so I finally did get the opportunity in 2019 and it's been great since then."
QUESTION: During your break, did you accomplish anything that helped you land your dream job?
ANSWER: "Being from the technology background, your kind of- technology people tend to stick to quiet things, to small groups. And it's like I needed that time to get out there more. Doing the volunteer work helped me to get out of my shell, it helped me see things that others dealt with as well so I became more compassionate for others, it helped me big time with being able to communicate better with others. That time allowed me to do that and that what has helped me mainly now that I am communicating constantly with the team, communicating constantly with the client. It just helped me keep a more open mind on not just myself, but with others."
QUESTION: Do you think you would have had that time without the scholarship?
ANSWER: "No. I don't think I would have had that time because at that point, there- there were things that- that the scholarship paid for at that time that were a big help. If I didn't have the scholarship there would have been loans that I would have to pay off at that time after graduating. So me being able to go through college without having to have those debts in the back there, that allowed me to be able to kind of have that freedom to take two years after graduating."
QUESTION: Was your end-goal to work for Centre?
ANSWER: "I'd say it was my end-goal because I really really wanted to be here. And then- I was actually able to meet Kathy Pace back when she was still living. She was a very sweet lady. I got to spend a litle bit of time watching Wheel of Fortune with her because she was family members with one of my neighbors. So she would tell me about the company, she would tell me about her son, of course I would also hear from the great aunt- that's my neighbor, Chris Pace's great aunt- and she just spoke wonders about the company and I just really had that in the back of my mind I was like, that's where I'd want to be."
QUESTION: How do you feel like the Kathy Pace Scholarship reflects who she was?
ANSWER: "Helping those that are less fortunate. That's a big thing there because I know from where she started, it wasn't- it wasn't like those that have family that back them up with money. She started her own company with the transportation- or, what was it, where they're escorting bigger vehicles. She was a very smart woman, she gives a lot of us women that empowerment and this scholarship offered in her name- it just pushes anybody who's in technology to just keep going. I still- she was a woman that a lot of people could look up to and I look up to her. Knowing that Kathy's legacy lives on, she's still a big part of Centre and she's apart of everybody who is a recipient of this scholarship."
QUESTION: What did you picture yourself doing after graduation?
ANSWER: "I pretty much pictured myself at the- like, I was picturing myself so hard being at Centre but I didn't expect to become the lead. I was thinking like a tier 1, tier 1 consultant. I didn't really know how I would- I would like evolve, and I didn't- I never pictured it. Like, it's amazing to me how much I've grown. "
QUESTION: Any advice for college students?
ANSWER: "Just be positive. Because without the positivity it starts to get very bad."
Kathy pace scholarship 2016 Recipient: Katelyn Trout
Katelyn discovered the Kathy Pace scholarship program in 2016. Her journey ended up being influenced by the involvement of the scholarship and allowed her to clarify what her educational goals were. Today, Katelyn is in a role she didn’t expect but was brought to thanks to the Kathy Pace Scholarship.
QUESTION: When did you receive the Kathy Pace Scholarship?
ANSWER: "I got the scholarship in 2016, so right in between my freshman and sophomore year of college.”
QUESTION: What was college life like before the scholarship?
ANSWER: "I was at Texas A&M and I was studying computer science. [I was] very stressed about where- how much debt I was acquiring at that point in my college career. I was the first in my family to actually go to college so I didn’t have a college fund set aside so it was definitely a blessing that I received the scholarship between my freshman and sophomore year to give me a little breathing room for the latter half of my college year.”
QUESTION: What were you able to do after receiving the scholarship that you weren’t able to do before?
ANSWER: "That summer, when I got the scholarship I was actually working two jobs. I was working a 9-5 job in an office as an assistant and then I was working as a waitress after that job and I would work from 5-midnight. I was nervous I was going to have to do both of those jobs and try to go to school when I went back my sophomore year but I was able to actually stop waiting tables when I went back sophomore year and just focus on my office job which was more related to what I wanted to do long-term anyways, it was getting me more exposure and networking opportunities so I was able to just kind of like focus on that and school and getting that degree."
QUESTION: What's your occupation today?
ANSWER: "I, since I graduated college, started working at Amazon and right now I work as a technical product manager over a machine model that delivers personalization at scale to customers. I typically work with Alexa and basically I take this model that the data science team has built and I try to inject it into digital marketing channels so instead of everyone receiving an email saying oh you should play music on your Alexa device one person will get play music, one person may get look at the weather, one person could get play a game, it just helps deliver more personalized marketing to customers."
QUESTION: Are you currently where you envisioned yourself after graduation or did you end up taking a different route?
ANSWER: "A little bit of both. I think that my goal was always to work in tech and my job was- I really enjoy being kind of the mediator, the translator between very technical and very non-technical teams which is kind of what I do now, is just bridge like data science with marketing. That was kind of always the goal but exactly how or what I was doing would not- I never really thought about or wasn’t as specific about. Actually, I’ve moved around quite a lot since I’ve been at Amazon. When I started at Amazon, I was literally just a recruiting coordinator and doing interviews for like the principal engineers at the company. I did that for a year and while I was doing that, I taught myself how to do sequel and I negotiated with my manager about opening a new role for a business analyst on our team and when I was negotiating that role like I wasn’t even picturing it’d be me but that ended up happening and then I was a business analyst reporting executive recruiting where I worked on a lot of dashboards and reporting for diversity hiring and recruitment and things like that before I decided I wanted to do something a little bit more customer-facing and that’s when I moved into Alexa to do product management."
QUESTION: When you graduated, did you immediately start applying for jobs or did you take some time off?
ANSWER: "I actually started applying before I graduated so my last semester was virtual, this was pre-pandemic, this was just based off my curriculum. So I started applying in January since I wasn’t really tied to a specific location and I was graduating in May and then Amazon actually ended up hiring me in April before I graduated. I moved to Seattle, which is where I live now, in April and then I’ve been here since then and I got my degree mailed to me. So I started before I even graduated.”
QUESTION: Do you have any student debts?
ANSWER: "I did end up taking out loans in addition to the scholarship that I received and- but thankfully, throughout the pandemic and student loans interest being frozen, I ended college with 45,000 dollars of student loan debt and I have paid off almost all of that. As of next month, I should be completely paid off- I have about $1,000 left to go."
QUESTION: Are you currently in a position you want to be in long-term?
ANSWER: "I think right now I’m happy where I- with the job- with the role that I have but long-term I see myself building something a little bit more hands-on, being a bit more tactical and creating a product that really is making a difference in customer’s lives like marketing is great and especially personalized marketing but I wanted to kind of like build something that is brand new that customers have never seen before and it makes peoples lives easier and like within Alexa, some of the things that I’m passionate about are like accessibility on Alexa devices like how do we have color blind options, how do we have transcription text for people that are hard of hearing, more of things like that, that are a little bit more wholistic to the product is kind of where I’d like to be and I like Amazon right now but also I think long-term I want to have my own company, my own products so those are just some bigger goals within my like 10-15 year plan but for now this is what- I feel very lucky that I am in this position especially being 3 years out of college and managing a product so large."
QUESTION:Where did you hear about the scholarship?
ANSWER: "I just- I think I found it just on google [for] just applying but I remember writing that essay very like, it feels like a flash-fold memory to me because I mentioned that I was working those two jobs and so every night I would come home after work and just kind of like scour the internet for scholarships and then write these essays because a lot of them require essay submissions and I remember writing this one specifically for some reason and it was just so delirious and some of it was like a little jokey and I was kind of nervous that no one would really like- my jokes wouldn’t read or it was maybe too joke-y it was maybe horrible enough but when I actually came and talked about it and was told that I actually got the scholarship like those jokes really did come through and my personality which was really exciting just to know that me being myself was enough to get the scholarship versus having to be very formal about what I was writing and very strategic."
QUESTION: When you did receive the scholarship, did you see yourself doing what you’re doing today??
ANSWER: "Yeah I think when I got the scholarship, I was still under the assumption that I was just going to be an engineer and that I was going to be just coding and I think within the year after that scholarship I realized that I didn’t want to just be coding like I do love the idea of building but I really like- enjoy more the people management aspect and that’s why I find that technical product management is such a good fit for me. It’s that I do get to have the exposure to the technical side of the work being done, I do get to get my hands dirty when I need to, but I’m still the one that’s kind of like more strategic, forward-thinking, working on prioritization, and building out the milestones of the plans of how we get to these big projects and all the in between steps and so I think that past me would be very surprised to hear me now saying I just love working with people because like exactly why I got into engineering was so that I could just kind of like do my own job all day but yeah, other than that I think that technical piece has still remained true throughout that entire process.”
QUESTION: Do you feel like the minimization of the financial burden helped you to refine your educational path?
ANSWER: "100%. Me being able to stop waiting tables my sophomore year of college and focus on- I mentioned I had that office job, that I, that was really when I got the experience of working with people. I mean, you get that in waitressing but it’s very different. I was just like- because I was working as an HR assistant, so I was able to- the thing I liked about computer science specifically was solving problems, and solving these kind of like puzzles. Those puzzles and problems still exist with people and technology and so finding a way that I could merge those two together was something that I- even at the time I was like I’m not sure, should I just do HR? Should I go back to coding? I wasn’t sure what I should do and I happened upon this middle ground now and that’s why my career path kind of went in the opposite direction. I started off as a recruiting coordinator and very much with just people and then back to business analyst like the pendulum kept swinging in different directions to technical and then now I’ve found myself in this middle ground. But I think without the scholarship I definitely wouldn’t have had the ability to really have that exposure because also, that office job did not pay nearly as much as serving did so I probably would have just been waitressing and I don’t know that my choices or career path would have been the same."
interested? apply before the deadline!
The Kathy Pace Scholarship program is a wonderful opportunity to remove the stress of covering finances and place that focus on your education. We are currently accepting applications until May 1st. If you, or someone you know, would like to apply, visit the Kathy Pace Scholarship webpage for more information!