My name is Scott Girard and I am a born and raised Madisonian. I grew up with my mom on the east side of the city, living on East Johnson Street until it was time to go to kindergarten and we moved to Starker Avenue, near Buckeye Road. It was just her and I, and she made plenty of sacrifices to give me the best childhood I could have asked for. I attended Elvehjem Elementary School, Sennett Middle School and finally La Follette High School before being accepted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the fall 2009 school year, fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a Badger. At that point in time, although we did not talk much about it, financing college was not an easy proposition for my mom and I. I applied for a number of scholarships, each worth $500 here or $1,000 there. I was plenty grateful for what I received, but knew there was still a lot of work ahead. A counselor gave me one final scholarship application, and part of me, exhausted of asking for money so much, considered blowing it off. The moment that I decided not to certainly is a defining point in my life.
It turned out to be the Arndt Family Scholarship. I didn’t realize when I applied that it was for tuition and fees for four years. I didn’t even consider someone could be so generous. Weeks later, when I received the letter informing me I’d received the scholarship, I had to read the “tuition and fees for up to four years” line again and again to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. I called my mom immediately while standing in the middle of our living room, and she made me repeat it three or four times to be sure she had heard me correctly. She had to pull over while driving because she started to cry. That moment changed both of our lives, and it would change so much more in college that I couldn’t have ever known at that time.
While at UW-Madison, I made lifelong friends and memories, many of which would not have been possible if I’d had to work to pay for college. I still did work, but much of it was unpaid, or covered the cost of my housing. My junior year, I was able to serve as a House Fellow and meet some amazing people and learn plenty about leadership. But most importantly, and entirely thanks to the generous Arndt family, I was able to work at The Daily Cardinal student newspaper for three years. I began there my sophomore year as a reporter, and by my second semester was promoted to an editorship, requiring a larger time investment. My junior year, along with being a House Fellow, I served a yearlong editorship that was again a large time commitment. Finally, my senior year, I had the life-changing experience of being an editor-in-chief. This required 60, sometimes more, hours in the paper’s office each week. Without the Arndt scholarship, it would have been impossible for me to serve in this role that meant so much, make so many connections and friends and add a bullet to my resume that has certainly helped me in my career thus far.
I currently am a reporter for Unified Newspaper Group, which includes three weekly newspapers and one monthly newspaper in the suburbs of Madison. I cover the Verona Area School District as one of my main beats, and through that I’ve rediscovered a passion for education. Without “Editor in Chief” on my resume, I doubt I would have gotten this job three months out of college (Class of 2013), and without the knowledge and experience I gained while in the job I doubt I’d still be here one year later. Long-term, I hope to be able to share stories that change lives. Whether that means continuing at a small-town paper, moving into a different beat or paper or finding a different outlet for sharing those stories, it’s what attracted me to journalism in the first place and my goal is to simply make a difference in both reader’s and subject’s lives.
But most of all, I hope to be in a position to give back. Whether with money, tutoring or mentorship, it would be hard to make the difference in anyone’s life that the Arndt family has made in mine, but that certainly doesn’t mean I won’t try.