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Bene Earns President’s Scholarship to UMSL

Wednesday, May 8, 2024


On a warm April day, many students at St. Louis Community College-Meramec gathered outside to watch the 2024 solar eclipse. But it was a few days later that the stars aligned for Jack Bene when he received a call during his work shift that he was selected as the winner of the Community College President’s Scholarship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Jack Bene“I must have had some cosmic insight in that moment, as I usually never answer my phone during work,” he said. “I was completely stunned.”

The scholarship will cover tuition and fees for Bene’s next two years, as he transfers to UMSL in the fall. He will take part in STLCC’s May 19 commencement ceremony, but won’t officially receive his associate degree in engineering science until he finishes his summer semester. 

"Jack is well deserving of the scholarship as he exhibits the characteristics of a true scholar," said Bisheng Ahmed, manager of TRIO students support services.

Bene is a regular presence in the Meramec TRIO office. Not only is he a TRIO student, he’s also the TRIO lab supervisor and Student Leadership Board Club treasurer. 

Sanela Mesic, district director of TRIO programs, worked with Bene to complete the scholarship application.

“TRIO is an incredible resource for supporting students who might need more support than others,” Bene said. “The advisors have been invaluable in helping me understand and be successful here in community college.”

Bene credits his leadership experience as the lab supervisor as playing a large part in earning the scholarship. 

“As a student worker, I built a lot of valuable skills and got to experience many different points of view not only from students, but also other students workers,” he said. “These have been compounded exponentially since I became the lab supervisor and began training not just the new student workers at Meramec, but other campuses as well.”

"He is thoughtful and intentional with his work in TRIO as well as in his academics," Ahmed said. "He thinks about helping and supporting students and others in his day-to-day work."

At UMSL, Bene plans to study mechanical engineering, with the hopes of going on to earn a master’s degree and PhD in astrophysics. Long term, he hopes to work for NASA. 

“I like to think I break the stereotype of engineers caring about objects more than people,” he said. “In my experience serving students in TRIO, I have built many valuable skills such as communications, planning, coordination, improvisation, learning styles and the role of a peer educator.”

"I see Jack excelling at UMSL, not only academically, but being involved on campus and having a great connection with professors there," Ahmed said.

Although Bene is on his way to the next step of his education, he said he suggests STLCC to everyone who wants to pursue higher education, whether or not they have a plan. 

“I think that community college gets an undeserved stigma, as most high school advisors don’t even mention it as an option,” he said. “Community college is an excellent tool to help give you time to think about what you really want to do. I personally feel like I have learned more in my two years here than my entire K-12 education.”

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