Hagan Scholars: GF seniors get help paying for college

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Green Forest seniors (from left) Mariah Rincon, Cole Armer and Desiree Dean received the Hagan Scholarship. Recipients can receive up to $40,000 in total for their education, allowing them the opportunity to graduate from college debt-free.
Photo by David Bell/Carroll County News

For the second year in a row, three Green Forest High School seniors have received the Hagan Scholarship.

Cole Armer, Desiree Dean and Mariah Rincon found out they were awarded the scholarship near the end of April.

The Hagan Scholarship is a need-based scholarship for high-achieving students that will fund up to $5,000 each semester and is renewable for up to seven additional semesters. Recipients can receive up to $40,000 in total for their education, allowing them the opportunity to graduate from college debt-free.

The founder of the scholarship, Dan Hagan, grew up poor and went to school in Columbia, Mo. After graduating, Hagan made money in real estate and started a fund for students who grew up in similar situations.

To qualify for the scholarship, Armer said students have to score at least a 23 on the ACT, and the expected family contribution for a student’s college education based on federal financial aid calculations has to be below $7,500.

The seniors said applying for the Hagan Scholarship is a long and difficult process.

“First, you have to find out if you’re eligible because only students who live in a rural county with less than 10,000 people are eligible,” Armer said. “Then you send in your FAFSFA and have to fill out the application, which is like nine pages long, and write an essay about why you think you would be a good candidate.”

“The first deadline is Nov. 15,” Rincon said. “You have to send in a four-year plan for college, an essay on why you deserve the scholarship and your parents’ tax returns.”

“It’s a bunch of information,” Dean said, “and this is the first year they’ve done it online.”

Rincon said the application process was more difficult than usual this year because of a breach in the Hagan Scholarship’s system and some students’ applications were lost, including hers.

“Nov. 15 was the deadline with no exceptions, and my stuff got deleted on Nov. 14,” she said. “So I had to make the choice of either restarting and doing everything that day or not applying. I reapplied.”

She said the applicants found out March 10 if they had moved on to the interview stage.

“They emailed me a few months ago and said I was selected for an interview in Columbia, Mo.,” Armer said. “Only 300 students across 20 states got interviews. I went and interviewed a couple of weeks ago, and they paid for all my travel, food and everything.”

“My interview was on Friday, April 14,” Dean said. “Mine was 30 minutes before Mariah’s.”

Armer said the applicants were told they would find out if they had received the Hagan Scholarship by May 1. He said he received his letter on Sunday, April 23.

“I was pretty excited and relieved to receive the scholarship,” he said. “It’s a big financial relief.”

“We got this email that said recipients needed to email their college and their major, so I went to the counselors and asked ‘Did I get it?’” Rincon said. “They said it was too early. I asked Cole, and he was like ‘I got my letter.’ So I had my mom check me out so I could go home and check the mailbox.”

She continued, “I didn’t want my mom to be disappointed if I didn’t get it, so I said ‘Mom, I got in trouble for my shorts at school. I need to go home and change my pants.’ So I go home and check the mail and was like ‘Mom, I got it!’ She was like ‘Got what? Your pants?’ And I was like ‘No, the scholarship!’ If I didn’t get it, I didn’t want to tell her over the phone.”

Dean said her mom picked her up from school early that Monday because she could not wait until the end of the day, either.

“I kind of started crying when I found out I got it,” she said. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh! My college is paid for!’ My mom started crying, and I started crying.”

She continued, “I didn’t want to tell anyone here that I was going home to check the letter. Can you imagine saying ‘No, I didn’t get it’ to the counselors? Everyone at Green Forest has gotten it.”

“Everyone who has interviewed has gotten it except for one person,” Rincon said, “so the pressure was on. You didn’t want to be the second person not to get it.”

Armer said only 200 students across the nation received the Hagan Scholarship.

“It feels pretty special to be one,” he said.

“I don’t think it has set in yet for me,” Rincon said.

“Yeah, I’m still kind of in shock,” Dean said. “It’s crazy to me.”

She said the scholarship will make a huge difference for college.

“I was going to have to take out loans. There was no doubt about it,” Dean said. “I’m working two jobs this summer, and I was freaking out because I was going to have to pay for my college. This helps so much. I don’t have to take out loans now.”

“I had everything paid for except for $10,000, so $5,000 a semester will pay for it,” Rincon said. “Now, I don’t have to take any loans out my first year or my second year or my third year.”

“I’m still looking at having to pay maybe $1,000 a semester,” Armer said, “but I can pay that out of pocket. I won’t have to take out loans either.”

They said any student who can apply for the Hagan Scholarship should.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Armer said. “I’m glad they have it.”

“If you have the chance to apply, then apply,” Rincon said. “I remember sitting in the library, and the counselors called us in and said we had the ACT scores for it and might want to think about it. I was like ‘No, I won’t get it.’ I almost didn’t do it.”

“I was like ‘I can never do this.’ This is proof that you can get it,” Dean said. “I was really discouraged about it because I didn’t think I could do it, but I thought I might as well. Some scholarships are so big that no one ever gets them from your school, but we consistently have students get this one. It’s proof that it’s worth it.”

Armer said he will be attending Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., next year and plans to major in wildlife conservation and management.

Dean said she will be attending Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and plans to major in rehabilitation services.

“It’s for being a parole officer, counselor and stuff like that,” she said.

Rincon said she will be attending University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and plans to major in public health.

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