UI freshman receives scholarship from student-driven nonprofit organization 


Photo Courtesy of Ryiah Barnes

Ryiah Barnes poses for a headshot. Barnes is a recipient of the Prodigy SAINTS scholarship.

By Mona Alrazzaq, Staff Writer

A freshman, planning to pursue medicine, is the first student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to receive a scholarship from a nonprofit organization managed by a student at the University.

Natural Path Nutrition is a non-profit organization centered around community health outreach and has projects that are managed by Drake Materre, senior in LAS. It recently awarded a scholarship titled “Prodigy Saints” to Ryiah Barnes,  freshman in DGS.

Barnes is currently a member of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students and the secretary of an organization intended to help appreciate Black creativity on campus. She plans on pursuing a major in the community health field. 

Prodigy SAINTS, or “Students Against Inner City Violence,” is a scholarship geared toward African American college freshmen who attended a Chicago public high school.

The organization wants to further expand the scholarship and hopes to make it grow into a University-related scholarship in order to give back to the community, according to Materre. 

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Barnes first saw the application for the scholarship on social media, but didn’t think she would be the person to receive it. After receiving it, she says she feels “very honored” and wants to get more involved with the organization especially because it is headed by a fellow University student.

“I felt like this scholarship meant something to me because I got a scholarship from someone involved with the University,” Barnes said.  

Because of COVID-19, Barnes is completing her education for this year remotely. She plans to use the $750 she received from the scholarship along with other scholarships in order to get a place to live on campus next year. 

A board member of Natural Path Nutrition, Mia Gassi, discussed the selection process for the scholarship. Gassi was one of the board members who voted for Barnes to receive it. 

“She exhibited all of the competency that we look for in a scholarship candidate. She exhibited different leadership skills, had community service and definitely seemed like she had goals and ambitions,” Gassi said. 

Since the organization is nonprofit, all of the money comes from fundraising and donors. The pandemic has impacted fundraising abilities for this scholarship, but the organization hopes to be able to return to regular fundraising as soon as it is safe to. 

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