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Wills Group Establishes Scholarships to Support Part-Time Parents/Caregivers, and Empower Women at CSM

March 20, 2024

The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) joined the Wills Group March 5 to celebrate the establishment of two new scholarships for CSM students – the Families in Motion Scholarship and the Julia B. Wills Memorial Scholarship.

"Partnerships are critical to the operations of the college and the success of our students,” shared Acting Executive Director of the CSM Foundation Toni Kruszka ’11, at the announcement featuring Wills Group employees. “Your commitment will help members of our community be more successful economically and socially. Together, we are building success and building a better Southern Maryland.”

The scholarships are sponsored by two Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) within the Wills Group, “Families in Motion” and “Women of Wills.” The company’s ERGs are committed to connecting employees who have common interests and empowering them to make change for themselves and their broader community. Previously, the ERGs have participated in activities such as lunch and learns, awareness campaigns and community engagement projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Our Employee Resource Groups help us build our culture, develop talent, and deepen our roots in the local communities we serve,” explained Wills Group Director of Corporate Communications and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Rayma Alexander. “Our employees are empowered to create their own strategies and find opportunities to help the community. It was their creative thinking that inspired the founding of the scholarship programs with the College of Southern Maryland.”

The Julia B. Wills Memorial Scholarship will be available to CSM students enrolled in credit and workforce training programs who share the Women of Wills ERG’s commitment to empower, develop, and nurture women of all backgrounds to achieve their dreams. The scholarship is named after Julia B. Wills, who became the first female CEO of the Wills Group in 1957.

“We’re thrilled to be executing our first scholarship with the College of Southern Maryland,” said Julian (Blackie) Wills, III, President and CEO of the Wills Group. “It’s a great first step for us, and there is no better partner for us than CSM. We look forward to this partnership developing over time.”

The Wills Group’s Families in Motion ERG works to support parents and caregivers both internally and externally to help them feel valued and empowered. The Families in Motion Scholarship is open to part-time CSM students pursuing any credit-earning degree program who are either a returning adult who has delayed continuing their education due to family caretaking responsibilities or a single parent, or a parent with children under the age of 18 years.

“I am a parent and currently attending school part time, so this is a very personal thing for me,” said Michelle Hackett, Chair of the Families in Motion ERG at the Wills Group. “It really means a lot to us to be able to bring this to CSM students who are balancing caregiving and education. We’re hoping to help people achieve their goals – and a little bit selfishly, we hope they could also be future leaders at the Wills Group.”

At the scholarship celebration, Kruszka highlighted CSM’s vital role in providing a well-educated workforce for area employers by inviting CSM alumni in the group to raise their hands. Among them was Darius Sanchez ’13, an Indian Head resident who worked for the college as a graphic designer and joined the Wills Group two years ago. Altogether, over half of Southern Maryland high school graduates who attend college start their journey at CSM.

Both scholarships will be open to the public as well as Wills Group employees; they will be given a blind review so that neither group is given preference. Applications will open later this month, with awards for Fall 2024 to be announced this summer.

In addition to the scholarships, the Wills Group has previously provided internships for CSM students, and invited CSM representatives to their headquarters based in La Plata, Maryland to give a presentation on opportunities at CSM for Wills Group employees and their families.

“CSM and the Wills Group are both committed to Southern Maryland - it makes sense that CSM would be front of mind for us,” said Hackett. “Together we are investing in our community.”

The Wills Group scholarships will be managed by the CSM Foundation. Over the past five years, the Foundation has awarded an average of over 600 scholarships a year for a total of more than $4 million. Donors can start their own scholarship fund with as little as $1,000 or donate to one of the dozens of established scholarships at https://www.csmd.edu/foundation/give/index.html.

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