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Forever Grateful

By Brittany Cleary '21

At 11:03 am on Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 an email popped into my inbox.

From: Rachel at Alpha Phi Foundation

Subject: “Congratulations! You've been selected as a 2020-2021 Scholarship Recipient!”

I did double-take. I submitted my application for an Alpha Phi Foundation academic scholarship in February – before my hometown, a suburb of New York City, had descended into a panicked lockdown as COVID-19 spread throughout the region. Like so many of my peers, my world changed dramatically between February and June. I completed the spring academic term over Zoom (in a makeshift workspace in the attic of my parent’s house, no less) rather than on the beautiful Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, NH. Masks had become an integral part of my outfit whenever I ventured outside to go for a run, complete errands, or take a socially-distanced walk with a friend. Though I felt lucky that myself and my family were safe and healthy, I had to reconcile with a constant feeling of confusion and uncertainty about the next year (or more) of my life. Needless to say, I had nearly forgotten about the Alpha Phi Foundation scholarship when the email landed in my inbox.

I clicked it and read:

Dear Brittany,


I’m thrilled to inform you that Alpha Phi Foundation has selected you to receive an academic scholarship for the 2020-2021 school year. You have been awarded the Clara Bradley Burdette Founders' Scholarship in the amount of $13,000.

Clara Bradley Burdette is one of our ten Founders and was initiated into the Alpha Chapter at Syracuse University. This scholarship is the first of our Founders' Scholarships, considered one of the highest honors for scholarship recipients.

Immediately I thought, This must be a mistake. There is no way I’ve just won a $13,000 scholarship. They must have accidentally added an extra zero. The year prior, I won a $1,250 Alpha Phi Foundation scholarship and was thrilled by the organization’s generosity. This year’s scholarship was more than generous: it was astounding. Reality started to sink in, and my shock turned to deep gratitude.

When I rushed Alpha Phi nearly two years ago, I knew that the organization was committed to philanthropy, but I did not realize to such an extent. Growing up in a middle-class family, I was nervous to join a sorority because I always thought of them as institutions founded on wealth and privilege – and while sororities still have to room to grow in becoming fully-inclusive communities, clearly the Alpha Phi Foundation scholarship program shows that they are moving in the right direction.

When I relayed the news to my parents, my mom became teary – not only because of the financial significance of the award, but for its validation of my hard work and academic success. I felt emotional too – through Alpha Phi, I have not only met some of my closest friends at Dartmouth but also funded my education – and for this, I am forever grateful.

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