Keegan Masterson would have been satisfied to receive a $1,000 scholarship to attend Cottey College in Missouri.
When she learned she had been awarded 10 times that amount, Masterson scarcely knew how to react.
“It was so shocking to me,” said Masterson, 18, a member of the National Honor Society who graduated from Baker High School on Sunday. “I was so happy.”
The $10,000 scholarship from the PEO Sisterhood, combined with what she said was a generous offer from Cottey College, will allow Masterson to earn her undergraduate degree with little or no debt.
That’s particularly important because her future plans are apt to be expensive.
Masterson is considering pursuing a career as either a doctor or a lawyer.
And she knows that attending either medical school or law school will require her to take out significant loans.
“I’m still kind of making up my mind,” Masterson said.
In the meantime she’s excited about traveling to Missouri this summer to start her first year at Cottey, the private women’s college founded in 1884 by Virginia Alice Cottey.
In 1926 Cottey was invited to join the PEO Sisterhood — the initials stand for Philanthropic Educational Organization.
The next year, Cottey donated the college to the Sisterhood.
Masterson, who grew up in Baker City, had heard of Cottey College long before she started thinking about where she might pursue a post-high school education.
Her aunt, Jeannette Burgess (her maiden name is Etchamendy) is a Baker High School graduate who attended Cottey College in the early 1990s.
“She always talked so highly about it,” Masterson said of her aunt. “She made connections there she’ll have forever.”
Masterson said her father, Kestin Masterson, who is Jeannette’s brother, also “kept bringing it up to me,” meaning Cottey as a potential college option.
Masterson said she was planning to attend Portland State University, where she had been accepted.
Earlier this year she also decided to apply to Cottey.
The college, which has an enrollment of about 350, offered her an aid package, including a work study job, and on Valentine’s Day Masterson accepted Cottey’s offer.
At that time she didn’t even know about the PEO scholarship.
The Sisterhood’s Chapter CJ in Baker City, which was organized in 1952, is well-acquainted with Cottey College.
Several current or former Baker County residents are alumni who were connected to Cottey College through either of the two local chapters, CJ and AX, said PEO member Liz Burton.
The list includes Meredith Wilson, Julie Wilson, Kim Wilson Saiki, Kate McKim Rohner, Josie Stearns, Tanya O’Neill, Kate Rowan, Annie Cahill and the late Pat Fessel and Kathy Rose.
Masterson said she had a phone interview with Burton and also wrote an essay as part of the scholarship application process.
She said she didn’t apply for a specific amount — which is why she would have been pleased to receive $1,000.
On April 20 she found out that the award was $10,000.
“I’m super grateful,” Masterson said. “It all happened so fast.”
She said student orientation for the fall semester at Cottey is set for Aug. 21.
She’s optimistic that the college, with its relatively small enrollment, will be able to have regular classes this fall despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Masterson said she’s excited about moving halfway across the country.
“I think it will be good for me to get away and make my own friends and connections,” she said. “It’s a really great school.”
Nevada, Missouri, has a population of about 8,300. The town is about 100 miles from Kansas City, Missouri.
“I like that they have winters there,” Masterson said. “That’s my favorite season.”
She said her aunt has offered to travel with her to Missouri for the orientation in August.