DELAWARE, Ohio -- Sheri McCormack didn’t want to go to Hope.
It was a small school, and it was close to home – very close, within maybe five and a half miles of where she grew up in Holland, Michigan. She’d applied only to Michigan State, and she didn’t really care to apply anywhere else.A biomedical scholarship changed McCormack’s mind. She got a free ride for four years of undergraduate school, plus the opportunity to run track. A middle-distance runner, she will compete in the 1,500-meter preliminaries of the NCAA Division III national championships on Thursday.
And Hope? Hope has grown on her.
“[The scholarship] made Hope a lot more affordable,” McCormack said with a chuckle. “Then, I started considering the programs I hadn’t seriously. They have an incredibly strong science program, and running was great. I knew if I’d gone to Michigan State, I wouldn’t be able to run at that level. Since Hope is Division III, I would be able to do well in academics and also be able to continue my running career.”
And, really, how could anybody go wrong at a school named Hope?
“The whole community is very welcoming,” McCormack, a chemistry and Spanish major, said. “The first word that comes to mind is ‘friendly.’ You can’t across a block of campus without someone smiling at you, whether you know them or not. It’s just an incredibly warm and inviting community.”
With just under 3,500 undergraduate students, Hope is the very definition of a small school. Still, there are plenty of activities in which students came become involved. McCormack found herself volunteering at the Holland Free Health Clinic, which provides dental, medical and optical services to the underserved.
She started volunteering at the clinic, and just six months later was the facility’s temporary dental program coordinator.
“I learned a lot, and I really got to invest in the community and in the dental program,” McCormack said. “I got to help make some decisions on things like how it was going to expand and how we were going to continue serving the community with the few resources we had.
“I’ve been volunteering ever since, even though I’m no longer the program coordinator. It’s been an amazing experience getting to know so many people in the community and at the health clinic.”
The role has been a humbling one. She’s dealt with the homeless, those trying desperately to either stay afloat or get back on their feet and even fellow Hope students.
“It was incredible,” she added. “I had no idea before I started working there how many people in Holland do not have access to care.”
In March, McCormack and Hope quarterback Michael Atwell were named as recipients of NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships. A total of 58 student-athletes across each of the NCAA’s three divisions received one-time, non-renewable grants of $7,500.
She’s taking hers straight to the dental school at Michigan. You read that right. She began her college career hoping to go to Michigan State, and is continuing her postgraduate work at that school’s dreaded rival.
McCormack laughs and says that she doesn’t follow college or professional sports at all. She’s “apathetic” about the rivalry, so apparently, Michigan-Michigan State is a debate for somebody else to take up.
“I’ve always had my sights on a bigger school,” McCormack said. “I’m really excited to be a part of the Big Ten, and the dental school only has about 120 students. We have a pretty small community. It’ll be way smaller than the whole community, so I don’t think the transition will be too hard because I’ll have my small student body, but then I’ll have the bigger, greater U of M community.”
What’s more, McCormack still has eligibility remaining in her collegiate indoor track and field career. Could she possibly wind up running as a Wolverine?
She hopes so.
“It’s a postgraduate scholarship, so I’d need to forfeit eligibility,” she said. “I don’t want to be too pushy, because they’re already being super-generous in giving me money. But after my season’s over, I’m hoping to make a few phone calls and find out if it’s possible to delay in accepting the scholarship so that I can use the rest of my indoor track eligibility.”