Xavier Mason is on a life journey in more ways than one. As a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) he is traveling the main road toward a bright future, made possible in large part by a plethora of scholarships. But this year, he’s taken a side trip, a literal world journey with Semester at Sea. It’s an opportunity that he never could have foreseen a few years ago.
Mason is just the kind of person many donors have in mind when they contribute to scholarships. He’s smart, energetic, incredibly hard-working – and very motivated. Mason comes from a large family – he’s the middle child of seven – and his father often works 19-hour days to support the family. His mother also works hard to give her children the best chance in life.
A junior in Business Management at UAA, Mason fulfills the criteria for a First Generation Scholarship – one of many he’s received – with flying colors: financial need, Alaska
bred and committed to staying in the state. “Education is the key to unlocking everything good in life. That’s what my father once told me and I never forget it,” Mason said.
“In high school I had good grades but couldn’t go to college without the scholarships. I spend a lot of time looking for and applying for scholarships. It feels like a job itself. I work hard at school, at earning more scholarships, and at my sideline business. There’s no way I could have continued school without the scholarships,” he said.
The sideline he refers to is HandMade, his sole proprietorship that helps homeless people improve their employment prospects. “HandMade supplies work history by helping clients improve their skills and adaptability in different work environments. It’s a stepping stone.”
But scholarships have made it all possible. Recent ones include the First Generation Student Scholarship (see page 16) and a Wells Fargo Career Scholarship.
“Coming from a low income family, scholarships are important because I’m working, have a business and am going to school full time,” Mason says. “Getting a scholarship alleviates the pressure of raising money to attend college. I can now tell my peers who are living in a similar situation that there is a chance to go to college.”
Mason’s Semester at Sea had stops in Japan, China, Shanghai, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Ghana, South Africa, Morocco and Spain. Semester at Sea provides students the opportunity to travel the world, gaining global experience and exposure to world issues while aboard ship. Mason
didn’t leave everything behind, however. He sought to spread the influence of HandMade by contributing free clothes to orphanages.
“Giving clothes to orphanages is a relief effort within the company that will take place while I’m on board Semester at Sea,” Mason explained. “The goal is for the orphanages to either sell the clothing to help fund their operations – because there is a huge market for used American clothes – or reuse them. I can promote self-sustainable social enterprise, and help children in Ghana and South Africa at the same time.”