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Maria Camila Merino Franco: Engineering for the environment

Maria Camila Merino Franco is passionate about using her future degree to protect the environment.

"I really care about our environment and our planet and about making a difference," says Franco, who is studying bioproducts and biosystems engineering with an emphasis on environmental and ecological engineering.

"We're destroying the planet, and I want to do something to help fix it. I feel that with engineering, I'll be able to do the most."

Franco, a first-generation college student, moved to Eden Prairie, Minnesota, from Cali, Colombia, at age 12. She's grateful for the Thomas W. and Lynn B. Rusch Scholarship, which the Rusches started with an outright gift and will add to with a gift from their estate. Franco says the scholarship helps her focus on schoolwork instead of tuition and also eases the financial burden on her family.

Higher tuition costs would require her mother, who holds minimum wage jobs to support Franco and her siblings, to take on additional work. "I don't think she needs that in her life right now," Franco says. "I don't want her to have to do that."

If not for scholarship support, Franco says, "I would have to work during school and sacrifice my grades for work. It's better to focus on actual studying."

Reprinted with permission from Planned Giving.