Champion high school sprinter Diamante Spencer ’17 enrolled at UMass Amherst to compete on the women’s track and field team and study kinesiology as a foundation for becoming a physical therapist. That means she is hitting both the books and the track. “My UMass education is hard. It’s challenging me,” says the junior from Springfield, Mass.
Her competitive drive motivates her to do her best in races and academics. She is also encouraged to keep up with the demanding schedule of a student athlete since being awarded a Devonia M. and Henry Thomas III Scholarship, part of the Community Scholarship Program. The program was launched in 2014 to ensure access to the commonwealth’s flagship campus for students with financial need, with a preference for either first-generation college students or those who are underrepresented on campus.
Thomas and his wife, Devonia ’73G, Springfield residents, were among the first to contribute to the Community Scholarship Program. Thomas, president of the Urban League of Springfield, has been a member of the UMass Board of Trustees since 2007and was formerly chair of the board.
“Getting the scholarship makes you feel like everything you are doing is worth it.”
-Diamante Spencer ’17
The campus has set raising funds for scholarships as one of its priorities. Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy says, “We need the resources to provide the citizens of Massachusetts who possess the highest intellectual potential with a world-class public higher education option at a price they can afford. The financial squeeze is particularly acute for the sons and daughters of the middle class, because most state and federal grants are understandably directed to students from low-income families. “
For Spencer, her scholarship from the Thomases and the other awards she receives hold special meaning. “Getting the scholarship makes you feel like everything you are doing is worth it—practicing for hours every day and doing hours of homework,” she says.
The Community Scholarship, Spencer says, was pivotal last year when she needed surgery to repair her patella tendons and her family was faced with high out-of-pocket medical expenses. “It took a lot of stress off my dad. He was worried about how we were going to pay for everything and the scholarship helped a lot,” explains Spencer.
Spencer was captain of her team at Springfield Central High School where she holds the records in the 55-meter and 300-meter races as well as in the 4x200-meter relay. After months of rehabilitation, she is now ready to compete again for UMass Amherst. “I am so excited,” she says.