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Students receive $325,000 in scholarships and support
On a warm, sunny evening, 41 incoming University of Missouri-Kansas City students received scholarships in front of their families and the community.
They were among the 226 scholarship recipients at the 2013 Greater Kansas City Hispanic Scholarship Fund Awards held on June 6. The ceremony was hosted by UMKC.
The university has worked to increase its Hispanic/Latino student population, and the awards ceremony is a key component in the university’s strategic efforts to partner with the Latino community. In collaboration with the Hispanic Development Fund, UMKC matches the scholarships of HSF recipients who choose to attend the university.
Approximately 500 people witnessed as the students received scholarships totaling $325,000. The size and enthusiasm of the audience confirmed the theme of community shared throughout the evening.
“This is a great showing of community support,” said Mayra Aguirre Raplinger, executive director of the HDF. “It is an indication of how much the community has embraced our scholars and wants them to succeed. I wish them the best and want them to know that this is more than just a scholarship – it’s a partnership.”
Juan Sepulveda, senior advisor for Hispanic Affairs, Democratic National Committee and Former Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, presented the keynote address.
Sepulveda grew up in a working class Mexican-American neighborhood in Topeka, Kan. and spoke about the challenges he faced and those the students will inevitably face. But he spoke more about the ‘good’ that’s ahead of them.
“Way to go, you are doing important work” – a greeting from President Obama, delivered by Sepulveda. He then highlighted five numbers that benefitted students, the HSF and the community:
- 29 – the 29th anniversary of the HSF
- 2.7 million – the amount of scholarship dollars awarded during 29 years
- 226 – the number of 2013 recipients
- $325,041 – the 2013 dollar amount of scholarships awarded
- 41 – the number of universities recipients have chosen to attend
He expressed his sincere gratitude for the HDF and the years it has provided scholarships to Hispanic students.
“I grew up in Topeka near the railroad tracks, a tough neighborhood, and I bet we have that and other things in common. We also have faced tough situations and experienced good ones; we have the support of our families, and we have mentors whom we’ve met along the way,” said Sepulveda. “Continue to cultivate your mentors and supporters and prepare for the jobs that will require at least a community college degree and beyond.”
In his parting, he promised to continue his work – to conduct a study to see how many students graduate each year to know ‘where we are’; to strengthen the relationships with corporations to secure internships for students; and to expand involvement with universities and communities to improve retention and graduation rates.
In addition to receiving scholarships, the 41 recipients who will attend UMKC have an opportunity to participate in Avanzando, a mentoring program.
Avanzando is the result of a partnership established between the UMKC Division of Diversity, Access and Equity and the Hispanic Development Fund. It provides academic support, mentoring and enhanced access to resources.
Over the past few years, UMKC has made significant strides in its efforts to increase its Hispanic student population. Overall Hispanic/Latino enrollment increased by 52.1 percent from Fall 2008 to Fall 2012. In that same four-year span, the number of Hispanic/Latino students receiving scholarships and grants from UMKC has increased 78.4 percent.
Since its inception in 1984, the GKCHSF has awarded more than 3,000 scholarships totaling in excess of $2 million. The fund is overseen by the Hispanic Development Fund, an affiliate of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.