For some undergraduate students, their “last yard” – those last few final financial obligations that can make or break actually starting a college semester – can be the hardest to figure out.
But a partnership between UConn’s Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a foundation started by UConn alumna and basketball star Renee Montgomery ’09 (CLAS) is aiming to help students cover their last yard with a new annual scholarship opportunity.
“Education has always been a focus of the Renee Montgomery Foundation, and we always want to help students continue their educational journey,” says Montgomery. “We also want to empower students to recognize their moments that can create momentum and impact the world one act at a time. With the Last Yard Scholarship, I feel like the Renee Montgomery Foundation is doing just that.”
“At the start of the semester, many students are, on average, $100 to $1000 short of paying off their balance due to a lack of financial resources,” says Nicole Young, chief operations officer of the Renee Montgomery Foundation. “The Last Yard Scholarship is designed to help students make it the last yard for the semester or school year.”
Montgomery created her foundation in 2019 while still playing professional basketball in the WNBA. She sat out the 2020 season to instead focus her attention and efforts on social justice initiatives. She retired from the WNBA in 2021 after an 11-year professional career, and that same year she became co-owner and vice president of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, making her the first WNBA player to become an owner of a WNBA team.
An executive and activist, Montgomery also serves as a member of the Werth Institute’s Advisory Board, and her foundation has partnered with the institute to support the entrepreneurial efforts of Werth Innovators – student ambassadors for entrepreneurship and innovation at UConn who play a central role in building interest and participation in UConn’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The Renee Montgomery Foundation and the Werth Institute share important values around providing students with access to opportunities, mentorship, and dreams that they cannot achieve on their own,” says Werth Institute Director David Noble. “Renee is how we hope our alumni grow to be. She saw a problem in the world and took action to solve it.”
The first two recipients of $1,500 Last Yard Scholarships are Rashana Weerasinghe ‘23 (BUS), a junior studying business data analytics, and Astou Diallo ‘23 (BUS), a junior majoring in information management systems.
“The UConn Werth Institute and Renee Montgomery Foundation are incredible organizations,” says Weerasinghe. “Both rely on creating transformative learning experiences for students. Entrepreneurship, innovation, and exploration are grounded in the infrastructure of Werth and the Montgomery Foundation. I am grateful to be a part of this movement. It is an honor and privilege to receive this award.”
“I think the Renee Montgomery Foundation is doing incredible work with all its initiatives, and I’m truly honored to have been selected as a recipient this year,” says Diallo. “Having financial needs met can really be instrumental in being able to continue your education, I’m glad the Renee Montgomery Foundation and the Werth Institute are helping students do that. I hope to one day pay it forward!”
The Werth Institute is also supporting the Last Yard Scholarship recipients by matching funds, for total of $3,000 per recipient, “to help get them to the finish line,” says Young.
“Students can use the scholarship for tuition, books, or anything that will help them finish their current semester or start their next semester fresh,” Young says. “Renee Montgomery Foundation wants to nurture students to keep their passion and capitalize on moments that will continue to fuel their momentum.”
The Werth Institute and the Renee Montgomery Foundation partnered in November of last year to offer a virtual career day for Werth Innovators during National Career Day Month.
“The students took a Saturday – right before finals – and participated in a virtual conference with young leaders from historically underrepresented backgrounds,” Noble says. “They learned about career opportunities from these successful industry leaders that they likely didn’t even know existed.”
To learn more about educational and entrepreneurship opportunities available through UConn’s Werth Institute, visit entrepreneurship.uconn.edu.
To learn more about the mission and work of the Renee Montgomery Foundation, visit reneemontgomeryfoundation.org.