Arbor Creek Scholarship winner calls MSU a 'home away from home'

Arbor Creek Scholarship winner calls MSU a 'home away from home'

Kay Brookes doesn't lack for faith.

She believed in herself when elementary-school teachers labeled her as "illiterate." A natural with numbers, Brookes believed in her abilities. She was going to read, and she was going to succeed. And she did.

Brookes, from the island of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean Sea, has a dream to help others who face obstacles in life with the same passion that allowed her to twice make the President's Honor Roll at MSU Texas and more importantly, earn her bachelor's degree in business administration.

She's ready to embrace the next step in graduate school, but wondered how the finances would work out. She wanted to be able to work and be able to send money home to her ailing mother, and she needed to pay bills here in Wichita Falls, too.

Her help, and she believes an answer to her prayers, came in the form of the 2019-20 Arbor Creek Apartment Scholarship. The annual scholarship of housing for one school year began in 2009 and is administered by Arbor Creek's parent company, Haley Residential.

Brookes applied for the scholarship, including writing an essay about herself, and she prayed about it. And then the email came informing her she had won.

"I saw the email, and I thought maybe I'm the only one who applied. Sometimes you get something this big, and you want to think the worst," Brookes said.

Then Brookes kicked doubt out the door, making room for her blessing from Arbor Creek. She moved into her new apartment in the first week of August.

"It was a rush of emotion, an overwhelming feeling because I've been praying for this for so long," Brookes said. "I cried and cried for about 10 minutes. I hadn't been this emotional, with this many tears, since my graduation. I even said to God, if you don't give it to me, at least give it to a person who may need it more than me. Sometimes you think your situation is bad, but in reality, someone else has a bad situation that may be worse than yours."

Arbor Creek's direct community manager, Kathie Tant, was excited this scholarship was going to benefit another goal-driven MSU Texas grad student. Tant, who has been there for 14 years, wanted to congratulate Brookes and wish her well as she continues her education. 

"The Arbor Creek Scholarship provides a one-bedroom apartment to a graduate student rent-free for one year," said Kathy Zuckweiler, the Dean of the Billie Doris McAda Graduate School. "This is a huge benefit because it helps make earning a graduate degree more affordable, and in some cases, is life-changing for the recipient. I'm extremely grateful to Kathie Tant and Haley Residential for their generous support of Midwestern State University, the McAda Graduate School, and our students." 

Brookes knows her situation has improved with this news. She is excited about starting her two years of grad school in her apartment near campus. 

"For me, it was a whole burden off my shoulders," Brookes said. "The toughest part has been dealing with my mom because she's been sick. She's been sick for years and it's getting worse and worse. Getting this scholarship means I'll be able to pay my bills and maybe have more spending money and be able to send money back." 

She wrote in her essay about a desire to be a liaison for MSU in the future, encouraging and inspiring prospective students. 

"It's a home away from home," Brookes said. "The biggest advantage for an international student coming to MSU is no matter where you come from, you can find someone to relate to. There were already Caribbean people, Indian people, Chinese, and people that I would see on the island. I have observed MSU's remarkable ability to recruit students from all over the world, hence the reason for its diversity. Many organizations provide great opportunities for internships for students to gain valuable experience and even employment connections. I would love to help more MSU students to get involved and benefit from these experiences."

Brookes wants to become a Certified Public Accountant. She came to MSU Texas in 2015 with the idea of going into marketing but changed direction upon starting here. Some great advice and "tough love" from professors helped, too. Ronald Young and Susan B. Anders are two of her favorites.

"Dr. Young, he's blunt, very blunt," Brookes said. "But it's tough love. He's a cool professor. You can just talk about anything. Susan Anders is one professor I see who is really passionate. She gives good advice about accounting, and she would give some advice to you that others wouldn't give."

Brookes grew up wanting to go to college at the University of the West Indies. But a cousin of hers had attended Midwestern State. And after some thought she decided to make the journey to Wichita Falls, too. 

"It's almost like a family," Brookes said. "It's very different from back home. It's cheaper (cost of living) than a lot of cities. It doesn't have a lot of nightlife, but for school purposes, that's probably a good thing." 

For the coming school year she has a new "home away from home" thanks to the Arbor Creek scholarship. Her mission isn't to be the highest-paid accountant but to be an accountant who gives back, helping others as she herself has been helped along her journey. 

She also wrote in her scholarship application essay that, "if awarded this scholarship, I am determined to provide the maximum return on your investment." She's determined to live up to that. 

"I really want to have a foundation to help people," Brookes said. "I haven't narrowed it down to help homeless people or kids, but accounting is a means to an end. When I first started, I thought this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I figured people helped me along the way, why not give back when I reach the peak of my success." 

Notes: The Arbor Creek Apartment Scholarship originated in 2009 when personnel read in the Times Record News that MSU's then-graduate dean Dr. Patti Hamilton was trying to double MSU's graduate student enrollment. 

The scholarship provides rent for two semesters in a one-bedroom apartment and is valued at $7,500. Haley Residential officials say they recognize the importance of MSU to the economic, cultural and intellectual health of this area and are excited to continue this tradition.