A Scholarship—Making a Real Difference

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NancyRev. Nancy Swanson (pictured) was an early recipient of the Margaret Dreves Scholarship more than 40 years ago. Interfaith Action is honored to be continuing the tradition of awarding this scholarship to deserving students. Carl Dreves set up this scholarship in memory of his wife, Margaret, who was an active supporter of Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul for many years.

By Rev. Nancy Swanson

There are families that don’t track their kids to college. Their family income may be pretty much enough to keep everyone fed and clothed and to school for twelve years. There may be many children in the family – so how do you choose who goes and who doesn’t? The process of being admitted and getting through college may look too daunting.

But a scholarship – well, that can make a real difference.

With the high cost of college now, maybe this sounds like a story for today – but I was one of those kids in 1973. My working class parents might have liked the idea but they didn’t have dreams of college for their eight kids – even for the brightest ones. And not for their girls because – well, they were girls. Maybe tech college to get a skill but even then, tuition was up to us.

So when I received the Margaret Dreves Scholarship, it was a pretty big deal. I remember Mr. George Toren, a leader at the time at the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches (now Interfaith Action), handing me an envelope with the check and shaking my hand. He was a member of my church and I could feel the pride in me he felt that day. And I remember also feeling so proud and recognizing something new inside myself – the magnitude of my intellectual abilities. A group of respected, church-based people (and church was a big part of my family life) thought well of what I had done, saw potential in me and supported it.

It took me sixteen years, going on and off again, to finish college and earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (graduating summa cum laude from a MN state university). By the time I had almost finished college I knew I wouldn’t be going into business – I would go to seminary. Earning my M.Div. only took four years. (Scholarships from my seminary, some individual churches and my denomination helped out once again.) Today, I’ve been a United Church of Christ local church pastor (as well as a curriculum writer for churches, a leader at a state level in my denomination and a restorative justice advocate) for over 20 years.

And it started with a scholarship. I’m glad to call myself a Dreves Scholar, supported and encouraged by Interfaith Action. Thank you.

Rev. Nancy Swanson
Prescott, WI