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Desert Financial CU Teams Up to Fund Whiz Kid's College Tuition at ASU

PHOENIX, AZ (June 8, 2021) — The Phoenix Mercury’s overtime win against the Chicago Sky wasn’t the only reason to celebrate at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 3rd. Alena Wicker, a 12-year-old freshman at ASU, also landed a big win toward her goal to shoot for the stars.

Alena plans to be the youngest woman to become a NASA engineer and was awarded full tuition coverage in a gift made by Desert Financial Credit Union [], Arizona State University and the Phoenix Mercury.

Alena was recognized during the Phoenix Mercury vs. Chicago Sky game as an honoree in the “Believe in Women” initiative that honors outstanding women and girls making a difference in their communities. As the spotlight landed on her, Jeff Meshey, president and CEO of Desert Financial, and Kent Hopkins, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Services at Arizona State University, presented the surprise gift in an oversized check.

The prodigy was accepted at her chosen school, Arizona State University, after graduating from high school this past year. Her age prohibits her from very little, including being recognized for her tremendous talents and ambitions.  Desert Financial Credit Union, Arizona State University and the Phoenix Mercury teamed up to gift her with the funds so she and her dedicated mom, Daphne McQuarter, could fully focus on bringing Alena’s dreams to life.

“We’re thrilled to partner with ASU and the Phoenix Mercury to help Alena achieve those ambitious goals,” said Meshey. “As an organization founded by pioneering educators, the gift of tuition coverage pays tribute to the spirit of putting big dreams into action. The sky’s the limit for her, literally!”

Alena plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. She’ll be working toward her goal to work for NASA as a mechanical engineer by the time she graduates at 16.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of our partners at Desert Financial and the Phoenix Mercury and for supporting the dreams and ambitions of ASU students like Alena,” said Hopkins.

Growing up, Alena enjoyed building complex LEGO sets while McQuarter encouraged her interest in math and science.  Alena says she knew, stargazing at just 4 years old, that her path would lead her there, but she prefers to stay on the ground and build rockets. After receiving her surprise gift, she described the feeling as, “excited!”

“Many of us are familiar with the African proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ and the truth is, it ‘takes a village’ to achieve just about any meaningful change in our world — from fighting disease to uniting for peace, and in this case, helping a 12-year-old girl get that much closer to her dream of becoming a NASA engineer, “  said Stephanie Lovingood, PhD, Senior Activation Manager of Global Partnership Solutions at the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.

“We’d like to thank the Desert Financial Credit Union team, the Arizona State University team and the mighty Mercury Family for stepping up and helping to facilitate this opportunity,” she added.

Alena’s passion for space doesn’t isn’t her only mission. She’s also committed to serving as a role model to inspire other young women to pursue STEM careers.

About Desert Financial Credit Union

Celebrating more than 80 years in years in Arizona, Desert Financial is the state’s largest local credit union with $7 billion in assets, 350,000+ members and 47 branches. Membership eligibility is open across Arizona with contactless solutions via eBranch, making it easy to call, click or come in. As a not-for-profit cooperative, Desert Financial takes pride in sharing success. In 2021, members received $14 million in dividends via the Member Giveback Bonus, and Desert Financial gave more than $5 million in COVID-19 relief plus donations, scholarships and random acts of kindness to our members, community and team in 2020. Learn more about the credit union difference at [] or follow us @desertfinancial.


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