Hard Work Pays Off for Student-Athlete
Champion high school sprinter Diamante Spencer ’17 enrolled in 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 Scholarships 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. So far, $400,000 has been raised for the program.
Thomas and his wife, Devonia ’73G, Springfield residents, are 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 2007 and was formerly chair of the board.
The campus has set raising funds for scholarships as one of its priorities. Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy says, “We need the resources to provide the citizens of Massachusetts who posses 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 $2,500 scholarship from the Thomases and other awards 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.
“Getting the scholarship makes you feel like everything you are doing is worth it—practicing for hours every day and doing hours of homework.” —Diamante Spencer ’17
The Community Scholarship, Spencer says, was pivotal last year when her family was faced with high out-of-pocket expenses. She needed surgery to repair patella tendons. “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's Central High School where she holds the records in the 55-meter, 300-meter, and 4x200 meter relay events. After months of rehabilitation, she is now ready to compete for UMass Amherst. “I am so excited,” she says.