Pa. star’s perseverance inspires new scholarship, given to her

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

To call Katie McCollum resourceful is an extreme understatement. While life has thrown the high school senior a lifetime worth of troubles in her first 18 years alone, she's persevered beyond all struggles to inspire. In fact, she was so inspirational that officials of a foundation near her Agnes Irwin (Pa.) School founded a $10,000 college scholarship specifically so they could give it to her.

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McCollum not only takes a full course load and stars for the Agnes Irwin softball team, she also provides entirely for herself. The teen has lived on her own, in her own apartment, for the past 20 months after she petitioned to gain independence from her grandmother, who is aging and was unable to care for her. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, McCollum's mother died of cancer in 2001 and her father died of a heart infection in 2009.

Every week, McCollum and her brother, a sophomore at St. Joseph's, shop for their own groceries, make their own breakfast and dinner and do their laundry. They arrange for all their own doctor's appointments, and McCollum found time to apply to colleges, eventually deciding to attend nearby West Chester University.

Agnes Irwin softball player Katie McCollum receives a scholarship
Agnes Irwin softball player Katie McCollum receives a scholarship

Despite her other obligations, the Main Line Times reported that McCollum is a straight A student, the co-captain of the school's softball team, a member of its varsity basketball squad and, fittingly, co-head of Girls' Grant-Making, a school organization that donates money to charities.

Now, her tuition burden will be made a little lighter by the inaugural Kelly Rooney scholarship, which will be given annually to an inspirational student who lost his or her mother to cancer. Kelly Rooney -- who married into the Rooney family which owns the Pittsburgh Steelers -- died of breast cancer in 2006 with children of her own.

"I want to thank everyone at the Kelly Rooney Foundation," McCollum told the Inquirer. "It's a great honor, and I know my mom would be proud of me.

"I knew I was ready to grow up. My brother and I liked the idea of staying together and figuring it out on our own."

While the idea for the scholarship was simple enough, Erin Dugery, the sister of Kelly Rooney and the founder and co-underwriter (via her clothing line called Save 2nd Base) of the Kelly Rooney Foundation, made it clear that a story she read about McCollum pushed her into action.

"I just couldn't believe that this kid was waking up every day without parents in the house and was independent," Dugery told the Inquirer. "And then I thought about Kelly. My sister would have done something for Katie."

Now Dugery has, thanks to McCollum herself. As if there was any question about her intentions, McCollum pledged to do whatever she could to help others as soon as she finishes at West Chester with a degree in accounting or finance.

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