Service employee scholarship helps pharmacy student

We recently talked with Felecity Estrella, a first-year pharmacy student and intern with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. She is one of the recipients of the UW’s Service Employees Opportunity Scholarship, which provides funds to custodial and food service employees and their families to attend the University. The scholarship was established in 2009 by Helen Remick, retired Assistant Provost for Equal Opportunity, and Jeraldine (Jerri) McCray, retired Associate Vice President for Facilities.

In deciding to create the scholarship, McCray said recently, “The Service Employees Opportunity Scholarship Fund provides money for custodians, food service workers, and their families who attend any UW campus. We picked these categories of employees and their families because we had worked with employees in these fields and wanted to recognize those who we felt gave so much to the university but were often overlooked and would benefit from financial assistance.”

McCray and Remick meet each summer to review the applications and say award recipients are often the first in their families to attend college.  What follows is our conversation with Felecity Estrella.

How did you hear about the Service Employees Opportunity Scholarship?

I originally heard about the Service Employees Opportunity Scholarship from my mom in a conversation when we were discussing where my college funds would come from. 

What’s your connection to UW that made you eligible?

I’ve actually had a few family members who were affiliated with the UW. My uncle used to joke that it was a family business when my grandparents, parents, and a few uncles and aunts were all employees at UW. Though many of them have moved on to employment elsewhere, I still have a few uncles and aunts who work here. The link that enabled me to apply and be eligible for the scholarship was my mom, who’s been employed at the UW for the last 30 years. 


Seattle native Felecity Estrella is a first-year pharmacy student. Her mother is a Food Service lead in the cafeteria of UW Medicine.

What has this scholarship meant to you?

In my family, finances have always been a bit tight. When it came time for me to apply to college, my parents only had enough college funds for a little less than a year of tuition, not including housing. I questioned whether college was still an option for me but decided to still apply. I ended up receiving scholarships to cover my college tuition and this scholarship in particular contributed to ensuring that I didn’t have to pay a single penny for my first year of college. 

How did you become interested in pharmacy?

I’m a first year pharmacy student and will graduate in 2023. The reason that I decided on pharmacy was because my mom was taking pharmacy technician classes when I was growing up. She finished and got her pharmacy technician license but wasn’t able to find a job that allowed for her to take care of me and my sister at the time. I decided to pursue the field because of the sacrifice she made for me. 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Are you working while attending classes?

I like spending time with family and friends. A support network during large transitions like college are so important so I also like to stay involved in the Filipino American Student Association on campus. A lot of the people who are in my support network now came from this cultural organization. I found that I get along really well with people who share the same interests and upbringing as me. 

I am also currently working while in school. Prior to my admission to pharmacy school, I worked as a pharmacy assistant at a small community pharmacy and now I work as a pharmacy intern at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. 

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to apply for this scholarship?

College is expensive and I can understand that finances are often a deciding factor in applying to colleges. Similarly, I can understand how stressing about what the source of your college funding is can impede performance in college. There are lots of scholarships out there that exist. Some of them are extremely competitive. My best advice if you’re worried about college finances is to apply to as many scholarships as you can, including even the smaller ones because even that small amount of aid can help. 

The UW Service Employees Opportunity Scholarship awards several scholarships each year. The application for 2020-21 is posted and is due by June 15.