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Group photo of Flyer Promise Scholars with University President Eric F. Spina

First class of Flyer Promise Scholars to graduate; program removes financial barriers, offers support for underserved students

The University of Dayton's first Flyer Promise Scholars will graduate this spring — cementing the success of the program created to remove financial barriers and offer support for underrepresented and underserved students.

The first class of 40 academically talented undergraduates includes many who never considered applying to UD before Flyer Promise because they saw the University as financially out of reach. The program, designed for seniors at partner high schools who are eligible for the need-based federal Pell Grant, provides significant university- and donor-funded scholarship and grant assistance, along with mentoring, leadership opportunities and other supports. It has grown since 2017 to include 168 students, with 98% on track to graduate in four years.

"I am so proud of each and every student for what they have accomplished," said Dean of Admissions Donnell Wiggins, who oversees the program. "They have persevered through ups and downs; they have changed our campus for the better by starting new organizations like our first Hispanic fraternity; they have served as resident advisors, peer mentors and president's emissaries; and some have even secured job offers months before graduation. They are change agents. They're going to influence the world in a meaningful way."

Dezanee' Bluthenthal, who will be a first-generation college graduate, was among those who did not see herself as a UD student. 

"My family really didn't have much, but when it came to school, that was something my mother made sure we took very seriously," she said. "So it wasn't that I doubted I was educated enough or had the willpower to succeed here."

Bluthenthal, a Dayton Early College Academy graduate, said within her first week on campus, she felt she "had a family" in Flyer Promise. She points to support people in the program provided her during difficult times, including when her family was temporarily homeless and she did not have a place to stay over a holiday break, and when her grandfather died.

"On what would have been my grandpa's birthday, they had me come to Albert Emanuel Hall and they had a cake. They also gave me packs of cashews in remembrance because when I was little I used to sneak into his room to eat his cashews. That's when I knew — I wouldn't get this at another university," she said.

"For my whole life, I've been in survival mode: How am I going to make sure my family is okay and I have clothes on my back and food. To think, I'm going to have a bachelor's degree from the University of Dayton — it still doesn't feel real," the psychology major said. "But I made it. I didn't do it alone, I did it with Flyer Promise by my side and supporting me in every way they can." 

Read more student stories in the University of Dayton Magazine.

Although Flyer Promise started as a pilot program, Wiggins said the students' success has proved that it is here to stay. The University continues to seek donors to support the student scholarships, and partner schools have expanded to include Archbishop Moeller High School, Chaminade Julienne High School, Dayton Early College Academy, Colegio San Jose High School, Purcell Marian High School, Cristo Rey Boston High School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Chaminade College Preparatory High School, St. John Vianney High School, St. Mary's High School, and Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, as well as the Montgomery County College Promise and I Know I Can programs and Cincinnati Public Schools' College Consortium.

"UD is committed because it is connected to our mission as a Catholic, Marianist university," he said. "The future is bright because we have talented students who are getting offers all over the country, but they choose UD for Flyer Promise."


News and Communications Staff