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I was 10 years old when Louise A. Dean died. Ten years old when the woman who would go on to help fund my future passed away.

At that age, I still had years before I would attend college. I had dreams, but no foresight. Ambition, but no plans. And yet, there Louise stood – full of foresight, full of plans. When Louise looked around, she didn’t just see school-aged kids, she saw children with dreams. She saw children with hope and desires. And it was her goal, her vision, to help make those dreams come true. And so she did.

They tell me I met her once – right after I was born. But I don’t remember it. My grandmother tells stories now of her and Louise riding horses together and picking huckleberries. Of working the cattle and baling hay. But I never knew Louise; I never knew this relationship. To me, Louise wasn’t my grandmother’s close friend or an acquaintance I had once met. She was a stranger. She was a stranger whose love for Montana and desire to give back has forever changed my life.

Before passing away in 2009, Louise established the Louise A. Dean Scholarship Fund, a fund dedicated to benefiting the students of Lincoln and Northern Cheyenne – two areas of the state where Louise lived and learned to love ranching. And in 2017, I became a beneficiary of that fund.

It was a day during my senior year of high school – I opened my mailbox and there it was: my future. Of course, I didn’t know it right away; few do. But as I opened the package and read the words staring back at me, it became very clear. I was going to the University of Montana Western. I was going to become a math and science teacher. I was going to change lives. And it was all thanks to one woman: Louise A. Dean.

Nine years ago, a woman I never knew, yet have become deeply connected to, actively chose to leave her mark on this world and give back to the state she loved. And you can, too.

Rooted in philanthropy, the Montana Community Foundation (MCF) is a foundation that helps make dreams come true. It’s the closest thing to magic. Last year, MCF awarded more than $450,000 in scholarships to 146 Montana students. Of that $450,000, $34,000 came from the Louise A. Dean Scholarship Fund. And though I am honored and humbled to have received Louise’s scholarship, my story is just one. Just one of the 146 and just one of the many to come.

In a little over a month, thousands of Montana students will graduate from high school. They will graduate with goals and dreams. Hope and ambition. But only 61 percent of them will attend college later this year. For some, it will be a choice. But for others, college was never an option. Like Louise, you can help change that.

With more than 50 established scholarship funds, MCF is one of the largest providers of scholarships in the state. Yet, even so, it is Montanans like you and strangers like Louise who continue to remain the catalyst. Regardless of their dreams, every student has a story. And every story has a hero. Louise was mine. Will you be someone else’s?

For more information on scholarship funds and how to contribute, visit mtcf.org.

Adrianna Pittman is a freshman at the University of Montana Western. She is a recipient of the Louise A. Dean Scholarship Fund and is pursuing a degree in Secondary Education Math and Science.

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