Loss of a parent.
Caring for a younger sibling.
Any one of these might prevent someone from attending college.
But Jasper Gain, the MarooNation Ball Springfield student scholarship recipient, refuses to give up.
“It doesn’t seem like I’ve done all these things. When I say them out loud, it feels unbelievable. I’m taking everything day by day.”
“You can do something bigger”
Gain’s journey began when she entered the foster-care system at a young age.
By the time she was 17, Gain had dropped out of high school, worked the night shift at a hotel for more than a year and was living with her mom’s ex-partner, whom she calls her “foster dad.”
Despite her circumstances, Gain has support, resources and a strong work ethic that kept her from falling through the cracks.
After dropping out, Gain took the GED test through a program called Missouri Options. Students usually stay in the program for about a year, but Gain passed in two weeks. This put her ahead of her original graduation schedule.
“I accidentally graduated high school a year early by dropping out.”
After graduation, Gain was paired with a mentor through the Youth Educational Success, or YES, program.
Her mentor helped her with the college-search process.
Gain started at a community college in Kansas City, but her mentor thought she had greater potential.
“She saw my grades and said, ‘You can do something bigger. It’s possible,’” Gain said.
Gain was not sure if she believed in herself like her mentor did. She hesitantly looked for other college options.
She found Missouri State, and decided to take a chance.
She moved to Springfield in 2014 and became a Bear. She’s a communication sciences and disorders major who plans to graduate in spring 2021. She studies sign language, and wants to work with those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Studies interrupted by cancer
While at MSU, Gain has achieved great success, but has also faced obstacles.
Through the YES program, she attended the Super Bowl and a foster youth conference in Washington, D.C.
Gain studied abroad in Nicaragua in 2016 with the communication sciences and disorders program. When she returned, she noticed a swelling in her stomach.
“I thought I had picked up a parasite in Nicaragua. I was sure that’s what it was.”
A trip to the emergency room instead showed she had stage four ovarian cancer.
The diagnosis shattered Gain’s world. Five rounds of chemo and several surgeries in Kansas City halted her education for the entire 2016-17 school year.
But good news followed: Gain has been in remission since November 2016.
“It was one of the greatest days of my life when they told me I didn’t have cancer anymore.”
Becoming her sister’s guardian
Her life changed again shortly after, when she received a call from the police telling her that her biological dad passed away. She told her younger sister, Izzy, who had lived with their dad her whole life.
“She broke down,” Gain said, “because that was all she’d ever known.”
Ever since that day, Gain has been her sister’s sole guardian.
“It doesn’t stay bad forever”
Gain is now back in school. She balances her course work with the responsibilities of being a single parent.
“Izzy is my biggest motivator,” she said.
“I want her to see me become a strong woman.”
Despite the struggles she has faced, Gain has an optimistic outlook.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, and it seems like every time I catch my breath something else happens,” she said.
“But it does get better, you always come through and it doesn’t stay bad forever.”
Gain has a message for people who made her scholarship possible.
“I feel really grateful that there’s been so many people who have supported me through all of this. It means everything to me that people believe in me and in my dreams, and help me build.”