UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sometimes, when you follow your dreams and do what you love, good things happen. That certainly has been the case for Ashley McCoach, a Penn State junior studying elementary and early childhood education in the pre-K to 4 option.
In addition to carrying a full course load in the College of Education, McCoach is in the Penn State Blue Band — which made her eligible to be the inaugural recipient of a unique newly endowed scholarship, the Pritchard Hudders Blue Band Scholarship in the College of Education.
“I am really appreciative to have been awarded this scholarship and just be in the College of Education and the Blue Band in general because these are both things I have wanted for my whole life,” McCoach said. “They’re both what I am most passionate about and what I love the most and it is so great that I got rewarded for just doing two things I love.”
The donor, Shirley Pritchard Hudders, gives credit to Rob Mothersbaugh, director of major gifts in the College of Education, for the idea to combine Blue Band membership and having a major within the College of Education into a single scholarship.
“After I had decided that I would endow a scholarship in the College of Education, Rob asked if there was any other aspect of the University that I was particularly interested in. When I said the Blue Band, he said, ‘Well how about having a scholarship in the College of Education that goes to a Blue Band member?’ And I thought, that sounds like an excellent idea,” Hudders said.
McCoach, who plays piccolo in the Blue Band, never expected to be rewarded for doing something she loves.
“I honestly was so surprised when I got this scholarship. I was really happy and grateful to say the least,” she said. “This scholarship means a lot to me. It’s really nice to know that my hard work in college is already paying off before I even graduate and it also reassures me that I am doing things correctly. I love what I am doing, so that’s even better.”
Hudders has ties to both the college and the Blue Band. She is a class of 1954 alumna of the college, as was her mother, Esther Frank Pritchard, who is a member of the class of 1927. Several other family members also are Penn State alumni, and one of her sons played trumpet in the Blue Band in the late 1980s. Her son has season tickets to Penn State football games, so she usually comes back to campus twice a year to attend games.
“It’s just so exciting to see the Blue Band. I just really, really enjoy that,” said Hudders. “I think it’s just amazing what they can do each week. But I’m sure they put in a lot of time.”
The Blue Band meets as a class four times a week, and students spend additional time practicing the music on their own. Game day for Blue Band members typically starts roughly five hours before kickoff and ends about an hour after the conclusion of the game.
“It is sometimes harder to balance the work than I thought it would be originally,” McCoach said. “I didn’t realize coming into college how much time band took up. It takes a lot of time management skills to be able to read 70+ pages of different textbooks and theories every night and take notes on them and still go to two-to-three-hour Blue Band practices, plus going to regular classes and sleeping. I am lucky because I learned how to manage my time really well when I was in high school. I have always been really involved in music organizations and I think that helps me manage my time in college much better.”
Having this new scholarship takes some of the financial burden off of McCoach, so she can concentrate on her studies and enjoy her time in the Blue Band.
“Being in the Blue Band means to me showing support for a school I love and honestly it means hard work makes anything possible,” she said. “I have wanted to be part of this band since I was in elementary school ... when I got in I was so happy that my hard work and practicing all summer and the year before paid off. It was one of the first big life goals I had set for myself when I was young and it was amazing to have it accomplished.”
Another goal for McCoach is setting herself up to be a positive influence and make a difference.
“I want to teach in an inner-city school because it is very different from where I grew up, and I feel like while I had amazing elementary school experiences, there were very few people there of backgrounds different than mine,” McCoach said. “I want to work with people of different backgrounds and get to know them and help them because inner-city schools have a lot of difficulties.”
That goal is in line with Hudders’ quest of wanting to support students who are doing so many good things in the college.
“I’ve heard it said that a good teacher can bring out the very best in a child and yet a poor teacher can break a child,” she said. “When I see the exciting things that are going on in the College of Education, I see Penn Staters who are going to be those that are going to influence children positively in the years ahead.
“It’s my hope that the students who get this scholarship use their Penn State education to do things that will make a big difference in the lives of some of the children that they are educating.”
Initially, Hudders planned to give to Penn State in an estate gift. “But when Rob Mothersbaugh said maybe it would be nice to give now so I know who is getting it, I thought that sounded like a great idea. It was lovely to be able to meet the student who received the scholarship this semester. And as it turns out, giving this way lowers my taxable income, which certainly is helpful to me,” she said.
And helpful to the recipient — McCoach — as well. Hudders said it was important to her to support students with a scholarship.
“It’s just too bad when kids have to work so hard to earn money to go to college that they miss out on some of the other aspects of college,” she said. “Sometimes they can’t even put as much time as they need into their own studies. So, I think if you can help them out a little bit this way, it certainly goes a long way.”
For information about making a gift to the College of Education, visit https://ed.psu.edu/giving online.
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