The following is sponsored content presented by the Iowa State University Foundation.
Olivia Chiodo was home for Christmas. She was halfway through her sophomore year at Iowa State and couldn’t wait to share holiday preparations with her mom. They would talk about school – Lisa Chiodo was an Iowa State alum herself – friends and plans for the holidays. But Olivia’s mom and dad had something else weighing on their hearts.
“My parents sat us down to talk with us,” Olivia remembers. “They told us mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic and liver cancer. I said, I’ll stay home and help. Mom said no. She felt education was very important.”
Olivia was midway through her senior year when her mom passed away. By then, her younger brother, Xavier, was a junior. The siblings tried to focus on their classes and friends. Olivia applied to graduate schools. Then, just before graduation, reality hit in a different way: She received a tuition bill that she couldn’t pay.
Olivia was stunned. She knew family finances were tight. Insurance hadn’t covered all the medical bills, and funeral expenses had added to the burden. But if she couldn’t pay her tuition, she wouldn’t be allowed to graduate, and Xavier wouldn’t be able to register for classes.
Fortunately, Olivia and Xavier were able to apply for Cyclone Success Grants, made possible by a $1 million pledge in March 2018 by the Iowa State Athletics Department to help some of Iowa State’s financially-strapped students complete their degrees. Since then, more than 100 students have benefited from over $163,000 in Cyclone Success Grants, with an additional $156,000 in grants assisting 170-plus students experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olivia was able to graduate on schedule in December 2019 and is excited to go to Mercy College of Health Sciences this fall to become a nurse practitioner — her mother’s profession.
“I’m so grateful for the Cyclone Success Grant,” she says. “I couldn’t have graduated without it. I wish my mom could have been there. But I felt her at my side.”