Meet Claire Matthews

2019 Scholarship Recipient

What do you do for fun outside of school?
I enjoy flyfishing, roller skating, trivia nights and swing dancing in my personal time.

Major field of study?
Senior at Montana State University in Early Childhood Education and Child Services.

Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to fellow MSU Senior, Lucas Oelkers. Lucas hails from Culbertson, Montana, and is studying Mechanical Engineering. I met Lucas in the dorms in the fall of 2019, and his involvement, values and kindness are constantly inspiring. Lucas currently serves as the ASMSU President and is the reason I chose to become involved as a senior during my junior year. Seeing someone my age accomplish as many things as Lucas, while maintaining who he is, motivates me to try to reach my full potential every day.

Where do you see yourself in five years after college?
I see myself settling into my career as a public school teacher in Montana. At this point in my career, I hope to be a teacher who is making positive changes across my entire school and across the community I live in. I hope to be a part of different programs and opportunities that are focused on uplifting the individuals in my community.

Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
I hope I am enjoying life with a family of my own. I see myself moving away from teaching in the classroom in order to affect positive change in the education system through policy work and advocacy.

Do you envision staying in/returning to Western Montana in the near future after your education is complete?
I am not currently sure where exactly I will land following graduation, but I cannot see myself leaving Western Montana. I was born and raised here, and I am very proud of where I am from. I plan to use the education that I have been gifted to give back to the community that raised me, supported me, and continues to celebrate me.

Describe your thoughts and feelings on being awarded a SFGRF scholarship. What does it mean to you?
At the time of receiving the SFGRF scholarship, I had no idea what an impact it would have on my life and the gravity of the gift I had been given. I received a SFGRF scholarship at an incredibly tumultuous period in my life when I had no plans of where to go next and no money to go to college. Receiving this scholarship did not only guarantee my college education, but it guaranteed a place to live, a support system, and food to eat. I firmly believe I would not be the individual I am today without this scholarship. Looking back, I have no idea of what 18-year-old me would have done without it and will be forever grateful for the ways it saved me.

Did being awarded a SFGRF scholarship change your life in any way?
Receiving a SFGRF scholarship significantly changed my life. In the spring of my senior year, I lost my incredible single mother, Susan Matthews, after a long battle with breast cancer. She was my rock and biggest motivator in life. The end-of-life expenses diminished my college savings, and I was facing graduation living with my high school guidance counselor with no money for college in the fall. Not only did the SFGRF scholarship make my dream of college a reality, it provided me with the motivation and hope to continue on with my life and take the next step. Knowing that there are still individuals who care about me and believe in me, means more than anyone could ever understand.

How did your family and friends react to the SFGRF scholarship award?
I think my receiving the SFGRF meant a lot to my family, friends and the community around me. Those few months of my senior year were incredibly difficult, draining and disheartening to those who loved and knew my mother and me. Receiving the SFGRF scholarship award was so much more than simply receiving a scholarship. It gave those in my life a reason to celebrate and look forward to the future.

Any surprise to date that you have encountered in your education experience?
Currently, I am most surprised by the number of opportunities I’ve had to become involved and create positive community change while still in college. Prior to beginning school, I thought my only focus would be on my studies and that you needed a degree to start making an impact. I have been pleasantly surprised while at Montana State University at how much I’ve been able to contribute to my new community. I’ve served in three different leadership roles through the Hilleman Scholars Program helping students just like me, I’ve volunteered as a CAP Mentor in the local Bozeman schools, I’ve supported international graduate students adjusting to American education through the Office of International Programs, I’ve served on student government for the past two years volunteering my time to support my campus, helped create a scholarship on campus, and so much more during these three years alone. It was such a welcome surprise to see my confidence and leadership abilities blossom during my educational experience.

What are your immediate goals after you graduate college?
Immediately following graduation, my goals are to find a teaching position in a community that I love and at a school with a support system geared towards helping first-year teachers thrive. This is a difficult time to be entering education, and I am prioritizing finding a job in a school where I will be supported and not led directly into burnout.

Has being awarded a scholarship altered your views of the Stock Farm Club and its membership?
Prior to being awarded a scholarship, I had a limited understanding of what the Stock Farm Club was and what kind of individuals were members of it. I only knew it as the exclusive gated community up on the hill where some of my friends had summer jobs working. Since receiving the scholarship, I have had many positive views of the organization and have a deep understanding that many of its members have a unified goal of uplifting the community around them.

What would you like to say to the donors of the SFC that provide the funding for this scholarship program?
Again, I am incredibly grateful to the donors of the Stock Farm Club for providing the funding for the scholarship program that I have reaped countless benefits from. I will never accurately be able to express my gratitude for this opportunity, but I will always continue to try. You have made such a direct impact on my life and changed its course for the better. Without this funding, I would not be the individual I am today and would not have had these ample opportunities to make my mother proud.

Anyone in particular in high school that you admire, mentored you or you wish to give a shout out to?
I firmly believe I would not have made it out of the most difficult time in my life without the love and support of Ellen Ryter and the whole Ryter family. Ellen was a high school guidance counselor at Hamilton High School and I had been going to school with her daughter, Lauren, since kindergarten. Ellen promised my mother before she passed away that I would always have a place to stay with them if anything were to happen, and she went above and beyond that promise. She opened her home, her love, and her family to me, and I am forever grateful. In her role as a guidance counselor, I had the opportunity to witness her helping many students to graduate and be the reason that many others were able to make their dreams of college a reality. Whereas with other students she was working to connect them to scholarships, she was literally dragging me out of bed, sitting me at the kitchen table, and making me fill out scholarships when I didn’t even want to think about the next day. She is the only reason I graduated high school and is further proof of how powerful a mother’s love can be. She truly went above and beyond her job description everyday while at Hamilton High School, and I will always recognize her for the impact she made on countless children in our community. Ellen, thank you for being my light and savior in high school.