Words from Ola Abimbola: 2017 Penny Community Service Scholarship Recipient

written by | Ola Abimbola

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My experience with Students United has been nothing short of inspirational. I am absolutely delighted to be a recipient of the 2017 Students United Scholarship for community service. My journey as a student leader and student government work all started with Students United. It all began in September of 2016 during a tabling session. I asked what Students United was about and I was instantly impressed by what I heard. The Students United Intern at the time - David Shittu, informed me that Students United was the state advocacy association for students across the Minnesota state system and affordability was at the very heart of their mission. I was told that Students United was responsible for the advocacy that led to both in-state and out-state tuition being the same. I immediately decided to join Students United as a volunteer and the rest was history.

I had come a long way after unsuccessfully attempting university studies in 2005, I decided to go back to school after 10 years of work, including 2 years of professional work as an energy surveyor in the United Kingdom. My decision to choose  Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) as my citadel of studies was taken with affordability in mind, given that my education was going to be self-funded. I was pleased to know after my first contact with SMSU campus Students United committee that Students United offered a variety of scholarships and that all Minnesota State University students qualify for at least a couple of the scholarships. I began to amass experience as a student leader after attending the delegates conference of fall 2016 as an action team member. That semester, I joined the Student Senate, became International Student Organization event coordinator, and was appointed as Student Center governing board chair given my appointment as student center manager in April of 2016.

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 I joined the the campus Committee as a legislative specialist in Spring semester of 2017 and was pleased to be compensated with a $500 stipend for my work that semester.  After struggling to pay for my tuition, I decided to apply for the scholarship in March 2017. I was honored and enthralled to be awarded with a $1500 scholarship for community service (I had successfully taught over 20 people to earn a driving license at the time along with my other volunteer work on campus).  The scholarship was a life-saver and allowed me to keep my academic dreams alive. I was inducted to the National Society for Leadership and Success, and subsequently appointed as Students United Campus Organizing Intern in the summer of 2017. I was also elected as the International Student President and re-elected as a students association senator in the Fall of 2017. As of January 2018, I had successfully taught 30 fellow students to drive and earn their Minnesota Driving Licence.


 I am utterly pleased to be rewarded with the Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship for my community work and I am forever grateful for the recognition. I will like to use this opportunity to encourage Minnesota State university students to get involved with Students United and  take advantage of the financial support that Students United offers. We are the custodians of the fate of Minnesota State University education. We are the pride of Minnesota State; we are the Noble Knights of Valor for 80,000 students in Minnesota. Lets us work together in unison and tranquility so that we may achieve our goal of affordable education for all Students. We are the captains of our ship and the masters of our destiny, Let us keep the advocacy flag flying. Students United! United We stand!

Ola Abimbola


barbara j. penny community service scholarship

The purpose of the Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship is to recognize Minnesota State college and university students who have demonstrated a commitment to community service and to promote their growth as community leaders.

Scholarships of $1,500 will be given out in the spring of each year.

To be eligible you must: 

  • Be a Minnesota State undergraduate or graduate student who had completed at least one semester.
  • Have a commitment to community service 
  • Have GPA of 2.5 or higher

Read more or apply here.

Carlee Diggins