By John Sharp
A junior at Ruskin High School, Shyria Darrington, got a standing ovation from those attending a November lunch sponsored by State Representative DaRon McGee to inform elected officials about the KC Scholars program which provides college scholarships and incentives to save money for college.
Darrington, who helps as a teacher’s assistant with special need students, had applied for a scholarship and was mistakenly informed she was turned down. She told the audience she cried for a long time. After the mistake was corrected, Darrington said she got her first college acceptance letter from Kansas State University and she was so happy she ran all the way around her yard.
“It was the happiest day of my life,” she said, thanking her mother, grandmother and teachers for their support and encouragement.
The nonprofit KC Scholars program was launched in September 2016 after being incubated at the Kauffman Foundation, Executive Director Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, PhD. It serves Jackson, Cass, Clay and Platte Counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas.
Its goal is to increase the number of low and modest income students in the metropolitan area who complete their postsecondary education.
KC Scholars approves college scholarships to any of 17 colleges and universities mainly in the Kansas City region during students’ junior year in high school rather than approving them during their senior year so they have more time to make their college plans. Students may attend charter, private or public high schools or be home-schooled.
Scholarship recipients, Tankersley-Bankhead said, are selected based on their application essays, family income, grades, recommendations and school/community involvement.
The scholarships are up to $10,000 annually for students attending 4-year colleges and universities and are renewable for up to five years based upon adequate academic progress. Students attending community colleges can receive scholarships of up to $5,000 per year.
It also provides scholarships of up to $5,000 annually for adults living in the 6-county area to finish their college degrees. To qualify they must be at least 24 years old when they go back to college and already have earned at least 12 hours of college credits.
Tankersley-Bankhead said in 2018 KC Scholars will deposit $50 in seed money in college savings accounts for at least 500 9th graders and will select at least 50 of these students to participate in a match and incentive program.
For those students, KC Scholars will match deposits by students and their families up to $1,250 on a 4 to 1 basis. Those students also will be eligible to earn up to a maximum of $2,000 more in deposits from KC Scholars for things such as going on a college tour or taking the ACT college readiness test before their senior year.
Students receiving deposits in their college savings accounts from KC Scholars are still eligible to apply for its scholarships in the 11th grade, Tankersley-Bankhead said. She noted that students with college savings accounts are six times more likely to attend college than those without them.
The program reported providing scholarships or savings seed money, matches and incentives last May to 635 9th and 11th graders and adults in the metropolitan area including students from the Center, Grandview and Hickman Mills School Districts.
Tankersley-Bankhead said KC Scholars has adequate funding to grant a minimum of 250 scholarships to 11th graders and 200 scholarships to adult learners in 2018, plus the funding for its college savings programs. The Kauffman Foundation has made a $79 million financial commitment to the program over the next ten years, and the program also has received contributions from numerous other organizations and individuals.
Applications for 2018 awards will be accepted beginning January 1, and the deadline for submission is midnight March 2. Awards will be announced in May. Interested persons may go to www.kcscholars.org to apply or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.