A Scholarship That Transforms Heartbreak Into Hope: Inspiring the MSD Strong Scholarship

A few years ago, former Parkland resident Rachael Schmidt and her family wanted to create a lasting way to honor a special canine friend that had been a source of great comfort and inspiration for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD). Following the tragic events at MSD, a Golden Retriever therapy dog named Kol became a regular visitor at the school. With each step around campus, he showered survivors with the healing gifts of love and kindness.

Rachael and her family were inspired to establish the MSD Strong Scholarship to support FAU students who share their desire to promote empathy and openness, just like Kol. The scholarship aims to help alleviate the financial burdens for a graduate of MSD, enrolled in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work.  “With so many academic and performance-focused scholarships, the criteria for the MSD Strong Scholarship first focuses on recognizing and rewarding compassion,” Rachael said. “Additional funding means more opportunities to provide resources, celebrate students and explore innovative ideas that will positively impact the community.”

As a spiritual and mindfulness coach, Rachael is devoted to mental, spiritual and physical health, and believes we all have the power to experience a more peaceful and authentic life. Through her continued involvement with the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice, she realized she could make an even greater impact by supporting the college’s health and well-being initiatives. Accordingly, Rachael often volunteers as a guest lecturer in the Robin Rubin Center for Happiness and Life Enhancement. The center, which Rachael’s family also philanthropically supports, offers free programs and wellness services for FAU faculty, staff, students and the broader community.

Additionally, Rachael and her family aid the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work General Scholarship Fund and the Heart of Social Work scholarship fund, which has generously supported more than 25 students to date. Recently, they funded the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Graduate Capstone Colloquium Presentations, where four of the top 10 student presentations received funding for college-related expenses. As future social workers, these students will no doubt place the needs of their clients before their own.

“Students need our help to set them on a resilient path for a self-nurturing postgraduate lifestyle,” Rachael stated. “This starts with the willingness to explore and incorporate innovative ideas and resources and FAU’s College of Social Work and Criminal Justice is doing just that.”

To learn more about how Florida Atlantic is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of social workers, as well as how Transcend Tomorrow: The Campaign for Florida Atlantic University is working to train more health care workers, provide scholarships that propel success, and create a healthier environment, visit transcendtomorrow.fau.edu

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