A Gift of Responsibility

New Trustees’ Scholars Celebrate Opportunity

For Azani Fitten of Wichita, being offered a Trustees’ Scholarship was the deciding factor in her enrolling at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Zachary Wolf of Sedalia, Mo., was headed to UMKC no matter what. So getting the rare, coveted full four-year scholarship through the Trustees’ Scholars program “literally felt like winning the lottery.”

For both young people, and their five fellow freshmen Trustee Scholars, the program is working exactly as intended: as Chancellor Leo Morton put it, “attracting the best and the brightest of our region and keeping them here.”

Now in its 12th year, the Trustee Scholars program offers a limited number of full scholarships each year to outstanding high school seniors from the Midwest. The program is supported by the UMKC Board of Trustees, a philanthropic organization comprised of Kansas City’s business and civic leaders.

Azani, Zach and the other freshmen scholars and their families were guests at a special reception during the first week of the semester.

Trustees’ Scholars benefits include:

    • Full educational expenses paid, plus $500 toward books all four years
    • On-campus room and board paid for the first two years, and a $2,000 stipend toward living expenses in years three and four
    • Internship opportunities with Kansas City organizations in years three and four

In exchange for that support, Trustees’ Scholars are expected to excel in the classroom, and also demonstrate on-campus leadership. Azani is eager to take on that responsibility.

“I am so glad to have this opportunity to positively influence my peers,” she said. “And I hope it will lead to career opportunities.” As you might expect, she’s ambitious – she plans a double major in criminal justice and psychology, and hopes to work as a criminal analyst for a police department.

Zachary plans to major in entrepreneurial real estate. The world-class rankings of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management made UMKC his top choice from the outset, but after moving in to campus housing, he got his first look at the school’s newest asset – the brand-new Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal – very high tech,” Zachary said. “It just blew me away.”

And he, too, understands that the program is a two-way street.

“I’m honored, but I also see this as a responsibility,” he said. He sees the expectation to “match the drive and intensity we had in high school, but channel that not just to our benefit, but to the benefit of the university.”

To qualify for the program, scholars must meet two of the three following academic criteria:

    • A minimum ACT composite score of 30
    • Rank in the top five percent of their high school graduating class
    • A minimum cumulative high school GPA of 3.5 in 17-class core curriculum

In addition, candidates are evaluated on their community or school involvement and leadership abilities.

It’s highly competitive, and valuable. Several of the new scholars described their excitement at hearing they had been named Trustees’ Scholars.

“I cried,” said Mackenzie Brazier, an oboist and music major from Bethalto, Ill. She chose UMKC over offers from Ball State and the University of Iowa. “It’s a very pretty, very tranquil campus. I noticed that right off the bat.”

“I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it at first,” said Lauren Zach, a civil engineering major from Overland Park. “I felt so lucky to be selected to be surrounded by kids with such high goals.” A talented soccer player, Lauren was also courted by schools such as Creighton and the University of Tulsa. “This holds us to a very high standard, but it also gives us a lot of opportunities.” The internship and networking opportunities provided to Trustees’ Scholars, she said, “can open a lot of doors in the future.”

Andrew Best of Kansas City is also pursuing entrepreneurship education at the Bloch School, and hopes to get a head start by selling real estate on the side while still an undergraduate. “UMKC has the best business program, and you can’t argue with a Trustees’ Scholarship,” he said. “This gives me an opportunity to become a real disciple – someone who surrounds himself with people who can help him develop and grow.”

Maria Gentry of Lee’s Summit is a biology major who hopes eventually to become a practicing neonatologist. On her first visit to UMKC, “I was nicely surprised at how much of a campus feel it has. It really seems like a community.”

“I worked hard all during high school to get an opportunity like this,” Maria added. “I really hope I can represent the university well, and be someone other students can look up to.”

JoAnna Muenks of Westphalia, Mo., is majoring in biology – initially. Her goal, however, is to become a healthcare entrepreneur. “I want to work in the healthcare field but possibly own my own business eventually – engage both of my passions,” she said.

When she got the phone call informing her that she had won the coveted scholarship, “I squealed, and I covered my face with my hands, and then I let out a big sigh of relief,” she recalled. “UMKC was my first choice to begin with, so it was the perfect ending.”

What does it all mean?

“It means a future,” Joanna said. “It means I’ve been given a chance to be successful, and now it’s up to me to make the most of it and to prove that I deserved this opportunity.”

And that’s exactly the attitude the freshmen need to succeed, say older Trustees’ Scholars.

Lauren Case is a senior Scholar from Overland Park, majoring in nursing. She’s already working at Children’s Mercy Hospital, thanks to connections with Trustees.

“I would tell the freshmen to interact with the Trustees as much as you. It can lead to connections that can lead to internships and job opportunities,” she said. “And become as involved as you can on campus. Use the other Scholars as a support system.”

Lauren said the program literally changed the course of her college career.

“I got to do a lot of things that I otherwise probably would not have had the opportunity to do. I studied abroad for a semester in Argentina. And I got to work as a teaching assistant.”

Corey Light graduated in 2011 with an Arts degree and now works for the Barkley advertising agency in Kansas City.

“I had a blast at UMKC by saying ‘yes’ to all of the opportunities that were placed before me through the program, and challenging the concept of my identity by pushing myself into unfamiliar situations,” he said. “But more than simply partaking in opportunities, the Trustee’s Scholar Program pushes you to create new avenues of exploration on campus and otherwise.

“Throughout my four-year stay at UMKC, I was supported by my Scholar peers and facilitators in a way that encouraged me to feel immediately comfortable to concentrate on making an impact on my community,” Light added. “The Scholars are chosen for their sharp intellect, fierce leadership skills, and passion to achieve and innovate. My advice to a young Scholar is this: put those skills to work the moment you set foot on campus. You will be rewarded with lifelong friends, exciting projects, and the knowledge that you made the most of an enlightening time in your life.”

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