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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Meet Scholarship Winner Lauren Leonardis

Oct 04, 2021

Homeless advocate, mom of three, and First Generation college student Lauren Leonardis has been awarded a UWW scholarship. Originally from Boston, this twenty-nine-year-old Amherst resident is in her first semester as a UWW Interdisciplinary Studies student. She looks forward to designing her degree concentration, earning her UMass Amherst bachelor's degree, and going on for her Master of Public Policy.

Every adult student has a story. What’s your story?

I experienced homelessness when I was younger. I dropped out of high school due to housing instability, and had my first child all during the time other students were being supported by their families to attend college. I have been working as a consultant for the last five or so years to end youth and young adult homelessness, and to make a better tomorrow for young people who have similar experiences as I did. Even though I have an amazing job currently, I still felt I was missing out on opportunities because I had no college experiences or degree. Applying for new work was difficult and complicated, having to explain that no—even with all my work experience—I do not have a degree. I never dreamed I would be able to go to college now, and I'm so excited and honored to be here, and to bring all of my life experiences with me to the UWW Interdisciplinary Studies program. 

What's your profession?

I am self-employed; I own Mother and Changemaker Consulting LLC. I work to end youth homelessness, and to help communities and governing bodies engage people with lived experience in decision-making.

What does winning this scholarship mean to you?

It means being seen, and it validated that I should be here. 

How do you balance work, school, and other responsibilities?

As a consultant I'm able to make my own hours. This week it looked like working 9 to 12 hours on Monday through Wednesday, so that I could spend Thursday and Friday on school.

What are your plans for the future—professionally and personally?

I ultimately want to get a master's degree in public policy. I recognize that to make changes, you need power. And to access power, you need experiences and a degree.