Friday, August 14, 2015
For more than 50 days, Elizabeth Simmons, Will Crotty and Isued Farret have lived on a school bus, hoping to outlast each other and win a Mercyhurst North East education through Mercyhurst University’s and Happi927’s “Live in a Bus, Your Tuition’s on Us” contest.
Now, at day 54, after getting to know these contestants and seeing their dedication and enthusiasm, Mercyhurst has decided to declare a three-way tie. Simmons, Crotty and Farret will each receive free tuition and books for any one of Mercyhurst North East’s 30+ programs.
All three of the winners have compelling personal stories and strong motivations for pursuing a college degree, according to Gary Brown, Ph.D., chief operating officer of Mercyhurst North East.
“I’ve gotten to know these three individuals over the last 54 days, and I’m thrilled that each of them will have the opportunity to experience our campus life at Mercyhurst North East,” Brown said. “All three of them deserve it.”
Happi 927's Morning Show personality Shari McBride echoed Brown’s sentiments.
"This was the only way. None of them were going to give up. Liz, Will and Iz are the embodiment of determination,” McBride said. “How gracious of Mercyhurst to gift them all."
Brown added that the participants bonded with administrators, faculty and students and fit in well with the Mercyhurst community during their time spent on the Erie and North East campuses.
“We were impressed by the passion and drive all three individuals displayed in pursuit of their educational goals,” Brown said. “Our mission inspires us to serve those earnestly seeking education to enrich their lives, and we’re excited to welcome Isued, Elizabeth and Will to the Mercyhurst family.”
The contest began June 22 with five participants, chosen from a pool of more than 100. Participants were allowed several timed breaks each day, but otherwise lived aboard the 48-seat school bus 24 hours a day. Each day during the contest, the bus traveled throughout Erie and North East for various promotions and activities.
Meet the winners:
Isued Farret, 23, was “sick of working dead-end jobs” and he was thinking about going back to school when he heard about the contest on the radio. “I was hoping I’d get the opportunity,” the McDowell High School grad said. Though it’s been a bummer missing out on summer, and there was that night they left the emergency exit on the bus ceiling open and it rained inside, he’s enjoyed living rent-free and getting to know his fellow contestants. “I feel like I’ve met some really cool people who I could see being friends with after all this,” he said. He plans to enter the physical therapist assistant program at North East, with the goal of eventually working with pro athletes. “I’ve been around many OTAs and PTAs and I’ve seen the way they help people,” he said. “I’d love to do that as well.”
Elizabeth Simmons, 28, is a mom of three who’s wanted to earn a degree but couldn’t afford college on her own. A graduate of McDowell High School, she’s endured 54 days of sleeping on the bus (“the worst,” she said), but found her entire bus experience “pretty cool and very rewarding.” An aspiring business owner, she plans to study business at Mercyhurst North East, with an eye on eventually earning her bachelor’s degree. She also has a passion for culinary arts and hopes to some day own her own restaurant.
Will Crotty, 28, already had the summer off and has wanted to go back to school for years. “Money was always my biggest hurdle,” the Iroquois High School grad said, “so this is a big opportunity.” It’s been a blast getting to know his busmates, and joking around with each other during the contest. The worst part? “I have not enjoyed the 50-degree nights, and trying to fit on the bench seats to sleep,” said the 6-foot 8-inch Crotty. A longtime teacher’s aid, Will has always wanted his own classroom and plans to study early childhood education to make that happen.