Minnesota graduate student awarded $1,000 scholarship
Hillary Noll has always wanted to help people. Through her life so far she’s been happy with the support she’s received from family and mentors, and she very much wants to pass that same kind of support along to others.
Hillary was one of the first three recipients of the Erickson Merkel Foundation’s Workhorse Scholarship, being awarded $1,000 after making a strong case for her candidacy. She’s currently working toward her Masters of Clinical Social Work at the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine’s University. She’s also working two jobs, the first at Maple Lake Recovery Center and the second at Headway Emotional Health Services Day Treatment.
Originally from Plymouth, Minn., Hillary credited family with her work ethic and drive.
Parents Cindy and Mike and siblings Melissa, Lindsay and A.J. were always there to offer help if need be. That early positivity reinforced Hillary’s perspective of the world.
“My family has always been very supportive,” Hillary noted. “Growing up I was always told I could do or be whatever I set my mind to. They always supported my new interests and ideas, like playing the drums in a band or trying out competition dance team. I believe this helped instill in me the idea that I have the ability to reach for the stars as long as I set my mind to it.”
Knowing support is there can easily help a person focus on her goals. Such was the case for Hillary, who was able to concentrate on her main interest while still in high school after enrolling in her first psychology class. From there her vision began to take shape.
“After taking that class I knew that I wanted to be in that field,” she said. “Throughout the rest of high school I knew that I wanted to help people as a career. I didn’t know what field within psychology I wanted to go into or what population I wanted to help, but I was very interested in people with schizophrenia.”
As the vision of her future started to materialize she knew that in order to keep that vision on track she would have to be the one solely responsible for it.
“I realized that this was the beginning of my future and I was in the driver’s seat,” she said. “After I came to that realization, I took control by deciding on the school and program I was going into. I began being more independent.”
That independence can benefit greatly from guidance. Hillary said she was fortunate in her family and later in having a mentor. Older sister Lindsay was her first source of help. Her grandpa also had a hand in it.
“Every younger sister always looks up to her older sister for advice and wants to be just like them,” Hillary said. “Lindsay was always so smart, pretty, funny and caring. She always helped me out with anything I needed and listened to me. My Grandpa Jim is another person I always looked up to when I was younger. He was so successful and knew the answer to everything. He always told me that I would be the President of the United States someday. He truly believed in me and everything I wanted to do.”
That family support helped her along the way to college, where she found new guidance from her mentor, Psychologist Dick Obershaw, who she considers a teacher and a friend.
“He knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and always gave me the best advice on how to accomplish that goal,” Hillary said. “He is someone I know I can turn to with any question and get a real answer from him, including one I may not always want to hear. It is so important to me to have such a great, caring mentor that is always there to support me and give me advice.”
Hillary said that support was essential in how she’s achieved her goals. Now, she’s working hard toward causes such as poverty and homelessness.
“I would love to give back to families who are poor and struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “I believe that someday I will be able to be involved with that community more than I already am and able to give back.”
It’s likely that she will have an effect on those causes. She’s been working hard since she turned 16 and decided to follow A.J.’s footsteps into a local job.
“My first job was at Pump It Up working as a party attendant,” she said. “Before that I babysat for families around the neighborhood. My mom and dad told me I had to get a job when I turned 16 to pay for gas and have my own money for activities, so I followed in my brother’s footsteps by working at Pump It Up.”
In a way, she also followed A.J.’s lead to Erickson Merkel Foundation. Although she’s not a member of the organization, her brother serves as a director on the board. In compliance with foundation’s bylaws, A.J. recused himself from the vote regarding his sister. He was proud to see that the other directors saw in his sister the type of character the foundation existed to reward.
“I’m extremely proud of my sister and happy she was one of the first recipients of an EMF scholarship,” A.J. said. “I believe she’s got a really bright future ahead of her. Even though I wasn’t able to vote for her directly, I was confident that her hard work and clear vision would speak for itself, and it did!”
Now, Hillary will be able to use the scholarship to help her path forward. What keeps her motivated? The thought of accomplishing her goal of receiving her formal approval to becoming a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. That, along with her boyfriend Brennan and dog, Roscoe, keep her on track. Other than receiving her LICSW she hopes to one day become a director at either an adolescent day treatment or adolescent drug rehabilitation center.
On the way, she understands well the importance of managing her finances.
“It is so easy to get in debt and not realize how in debt you are getting in today’s society,” she said. “It is easy for anyone to open up a credit card and charge it. I think understanding debt and finances is a very important lifelong tool to have that starts for a lot of youth in undergraduate school where students take out their first student loans. It is important to learn how to manage money to try to avoid as much debt as possible.”
That great attitude toward work, studies, finances and helping out is what made Hillary Noll one of this year’s Workhorse Scholars.