New scholarship for pregnant and parenting students announced at conclusion of Nine Days for Life

Madison Velez and Matt Bartels helped found The Hopeful Future Scholarship. The two served as vice president and president, respectively, of Protect Life SVSU for the 2020-21 school year.

The launch of an exciting scholarship fund to support women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy was announced after the concluding Mass for the 9 Days for Life prayer campaign.

The Hopeful Future Scholarship, which will help women complete their higher education at Delta Community College or Saginaw Valley State University, was born out of a desire to help mothers and their children.

“This is something I began praying with— how can I do something radically different that might actually prevent the loss of an innocent life, or at the very least give a profound witness to the value of both the mother’s life as well as her baby’s life,” said Madison Velez, an SVSU student who served as vice president last year of Protect Life SVSU. 

Matt Bartels, last year’s Protect Life SVSU president, suggested a scholarship for pregnant women and mothers. Madison believed the idea was inspired by the Holy Spirit, even though they didn’t know where to begin.

“I knew that our Lord would point us in the right direction,” she said. Madison contacted Lori Becker, coordinator of diocesan outreach and former Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Saginaw, who introduced the pair to Kristin Smith, the executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation of Mid-Michigan. An endowment was established to provide annual scholarships with a significant donation by Michael Marsden in memory of his late wife, pro-life volunteer Helen Marsden. Numerous additional donors also supported the fund.

Over one-third of women who have an abortion are college-aged, and 73 percent of women choose abortion due to financial reasons. The Hopeful Future Scholarship will be renewable one time and provides tuition assistance to pregnant and parenting students at Delta and SVSU. As the endowment fund increases, the hope is to expand the scholarship to all eight colleges within the Diocese of Saginaw.

The name ‘The Hopeful Future Scholarship’ was chosen because of its reference to Jeremiah 29:11 and the theological virtue of hope.

“Growth in the virtue of hope is moving from not only wanting something to happen, but also expecting that it will happen in accordance with God’s will,” Matt said. “It is totally God’s perfect will that no innocent child will ever have to die due to abortion again. This should be enough reason to hope for abortion’s end.”                        

Matt and Madison are examples of the growing pro-life movement among young people, which Bishop Robert Gruss spoke of in his homily.

“The pro-life movement has been and is doing phenomenal work in trying to protect the dignity of the human life— and we must keep working hard. Though the change may seem slow, and there are many obstacles in our way, statistics show that younger people are becoming more pro-life than ever before,” he said.

Bishop Gruss also reminded the faithful of the importance of a consistent pro-life ethic that flows from a relationship with God.

“Actively working for a world that has a greater respect for human life and greater commitment to justice and peace begins by coming to know who we are and who God has created us to be. A person who is not deeply aware of their own dignity in God, will never be aware of the dignity of the child within the womb; will never be aware of the dignity of the person who is sick, the dignity of the person who is vulnerable, the dignity of the person who is handicapped, et cetera,” he said.

Madison and Matt hope the scholarship will speak to the dignity of both unborn children and their mothers.

“(A statement) I hear during outreach that breaks my heart is this:  ‘I never knew pro-lifers cared about women so much,’” he said.  “No one who is pro-life can be pro-life in name or belief only. We have to take action to back our beliefs. This scholarship is just one way we can support young women facing crisis pregnancies and an uncertain future and work to make abortion unthinkable. I cannot wait to be here in a few years, hearing all the stories of the many women and children this scholarship has been able to support. Women truly do deserve better than abortion; they deserve a hopeful future.”

The Knights of Columbus have also become a partner, voicing support and agreeing to assist with the selection of recipients. All of those involved believe the scholarship is one way to build a culture of life and bring about the Kingdom of God in our midst. “Building a better world is the call of all of us; that is, a world which is just, a world which values the dignity of others, especially those who are suffering, those on the margins of society, those who have been left behind, and the stranger among us,” said Bishop Gruss.

“We must continue to give witness by our own lives of faith. We must continue to support organizations who support life, who help women, who support children and the aged, who provide assistance to those in crisis pregnancies and more. This is how we evangelize the world and help others to stand for life.”