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Paying It Forward Together

Myriam Butikima ’23 was studying in the Lougheed Learning Commons last fall when she received an email that offered her exactly what she needed.

The email came from Kelly Crosbie ’97, SUNY Potsdam’s Scholarship Coordinator, with a congratulatory message telling Butikima that she had been awarded a donor-funded scholarship.

“I was really surprised,” Butikima shared. “I was like, ‘Who did this?’ They gave me this amount when they don’t even know who I am, and I didn’t even ask for it. I was actually needing support financially, and I was just so grateful.”

Butikima poses for a portrait in the Academic Quad.

The scholarship that Butikima received was part of the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program, which was established to support students facing financial challenges that cannot be met through traditional funding assistance.

The average financial “gap” remaining after a SUNY Potsdam student has exhausted all other forms of aid is $2,500. In order to help fill these gaps, the College created an opportunity for donors to give an outright gift of $2,500 to support a student for a year. The donors are able to select one criterion of eligibility (e.g., “North Country resident,” “geology major”) that qualifies students for the scholarship.

The gift amount for some scholarships is donated by an individual or a couple, but in the case of Butikima’s donors, it was from a group of friends who wanted to give back to their alma mater.

Foundation Board Trustee Evril Clayton ’05 partnered with eight fellow alumni – Dr. Tesfa Alexander ’02, Alvin Dike ’09, Ernst Ducena ’05, Jerry Farrior ’07, Nelson Gedeon ’09, Eldon Harris ’05, Michael McKenzie ’06, and Justin Washington ’08 – to support a student of color at SUNY Potsdam through a Pay It Forward Scholarship.

"I was looking to become more active at SUNY Potsdam and this scholarship was a great way to become more active and to help a student attend school with less of a financial burden upon graduating,” Clayton shared.

The generosity of her donors made Butikima grow even more appreciative of the interconnected community of SUNY Potsdam, which was what attracted her to the College in the first place.

“The togetherness of the campus is what pulled me to want to come to SUNY Potsdam,” Butikima explained. “The scholarship helped me want to stay at Potsdam even more because it was like, ‘Here is a start-up for you. We hope you have a great four years.’”

As a sophomore in the Exploratory Program, Butikima has not yet decided on a major, but she is taking advantage of the large variety of classes that SUNY Potsdam offers in order to find her passion. “Whatever I feel my heart wants, I will go that route and hopefully have a successful future,” she shared.

With the support of the Potsdam family, Butikima is certainly on her way to finding her path to success, following in the footsteps of the alumni who paid it forward.

To learn more about the impact of giving at SUNY Potsdam, visit:

To learn more about the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program, visit:

Article by Alexis Donnelly '18, Photos by Jesstine Avadikian