Jessica Day, a Saginaw Valley State University student, will receive a surprise visit - and scholarship news - Friday, Aug. 3 from the namesake of Ruby's Rainbow, an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit that supports adults with Down syndrome.
Day, a Midland native with Down syndrome, applied for a Ruby's Rainbow scholarship last spring. Her mother learned in July that Day earned the scholarship, and in coordination with Ruby's Rainbow and SVSU officials, they organized an event on campus where the 25-year-old will learn about the scholarship in a surprise setting.
The news will be delivered personally by Ruby Plachta, a 7-year-old girl with Down syndrome and the inspiration behind her mother's creation of Ruby's Rainbow. The Austin, Texas-based nonprofit presented $213,000 in scholarship funds to college-bound individuals with Down syndrome last year and $643,000 total since the organization's founding in 2010.
Day and her family – which pays completely out-of-pocket for Day's tuition and fees – will not know the amount of the scholarship until Friday's reveal.
“I don't know how she will react when she finds out, but this will be a big deal to her,” said her mother, Julie Day. “She submitted the scholarship application herself, so she really owns this accomplishment.”
The reveal will coincide with SVSU's Cardinal College Day event introducing high school students and transfers to SVSU. Jessica Day is a student worker in the university's Admissions office, where she is scheduled to work Friday. The Ruby's Rainbow scholarship reveal is scheduled to take place within the first 10 minutes of a Cardinal College Day program at 10 a.m. in SVSU's Curtiss Hall seminar room. Day will be present, at first under the impression she will be working.
Day is a third-year student expected to complete a certificate of attendance from SVSU in May 2019, thanks in part to her involvement in the university's ThinkCardinal program. The SVSU initiative – an offshoot of the national organization, Think College! – provides opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to attend classes there as non-degree seeking students. Day is one of six students attending SVSU as part of ThinkCardinal.
Ted Lind, associate director of SVSU's Admissions, oversees ThinkCardinal and helped coordinate Friday's reveal event.
“I'm excited for Jessica,” Lind said. “She and a couple other students really helped us pioneer this effort to create a more inclusive environment through ThinkCardinal.”
Day's mother was grateful for the hard work put forth by officials such as Lind in helping her daughter pursue one of her life goals of attending college.
“Whenever we would drive by campus, for years Jessica would tell me, ‘I will go there one day and you will cry when you have to drop me off,’” her mother said.
“SVSU and Ted have been great in helping her succeed. Ted really has a compassion for her and worked hard to get her involved on campus.”
Day became involved in the cheer team in November 2016. During the 2018 winter semester, she lived on campus, marking her first time not living at home with her family.
“She loves life, people and school,” Day's mother said. “This has been a great experience for her.”