Impact Spotlight: Sy’s Scholarship

A little-known aspect of Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity’s offerings is a scholarship to provide educational resources for the owners and their dependents — of homes built by Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. The scholarship was started in 2005 by Ed and Kathy McCaskey, who also helped start Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity itself 35 years ago.

Many recipients of the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity College Scholarship have applied and been awarded for multiple years. One such recipient is Sy, who has used the scholarship to fund every year of not only her undergraduate but also her graduate degree.

Sy’s mom, Tiltyla, bought their home from Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity around the time Sy was beginning high school at Auburn. By the time she started thinking about college, Sy knew that she wanted to attend an HBCU (Historically Black College or University). She selected Wilberforce University in Ohio as an HBCU that was close enough to home that she could return to Rockford for holidays and that also offered the undergraduate degree that she wanted: a Bachelors in Social Work. Sy’s senior year at Auburn, she applied for the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity Scholarship, and was a awarded a scholarship to help fund her first year at Wilberforce University.

Sy says she continued to apply for the scholarship every year since then to help keep her school debt as low as possible and to help her successfully manage the financial aspect of attending college. She says the scholarship helps offsets costs for essentials like textbooks and class credits.

Sy is now working on her master’s degree in social work at University of Georgia in Athens. She will walk the stage in May of 2024 as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. To complete her licensure, she is currently in class 2-3 days each week, and she spends the rest of her time getting clinical hours and supervised hours in her field. She is completing an internship with the Georgia Department of Children and Family Services, and she has already started her own business to provide community-based mental health counseling and therapy services.

Sy is driven to be successful and to serve her community. She says that when she graduates, she would like to keep growing her business into a comprehensive, community-based mental health center where clients can see all sort of practitioners – Psychiatrists, Physicians, Therapists, Case-Workers— at a single location.

When Sy thinks about her future ten or more years down the line, she hopes to have a family, to be financially stable, to have a career in her field, and to own her own home like her mom, who has been a powerful influence on Sy’s aspirations.

“My mom has definitely influenced my career choice,” Sy says.  “She has always kept me active and involved with community activities and programs. I used to shadow her at work. Now she’s a practicing social worker herself, and I saw that as a natural option available to me.”

As Sy gets ready to enter her final year of working on her master’s degree, she says that she would encourage anyone interested in college at any level to seek out scholarships and ask about aid that might be available to them. She also says that she would encourage people to find out if owning a home could be possible for them through lenders like Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. 

We are fortunate at our organization to meet so many incredibly inspiring young people. Sy is certainly one of those impressive bright lights, and we cannot wait to see her continue to grow in her education and her career in service to others.

For more information on the RAHFH Scholarship, visit:

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