Scholarship Donors Bet on Student Success

School of Computing Engineering Students Thank Financial Aid Contributors

A few years ago, Jarret Aiken, senior civil engineering student, lived paycheck to paycheck as he worked to support his young child. Knowing education could be the path to his family’s financial future, he applied as a freshman to the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Computing and Engineering.

Aiken was not a traditional student. He spent several years working in customer service after high school before making the decision to attend college.

Aiken’s passion for clean energy served as the driving force behind his desire to become an engineer.

“Enrolling in school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Aiken, adding that it takes a lot of commitment and dedication to complete an education after being so far removed.

Aiken said there have been days where he wanted to give up, but the support of his family, friends, mentors and scholarship benefactors kept him going.

“That support has given me opportunities to learn in ways I never thought possible,” said Aiken, who serves on the board of UMKC’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Last spring he traveled to Panama with his fellow students to work on a project to bring clean drinking water to remote villages.

Aiken said when he applied for a scholarship his primary objective was to eliminate the financial burden of college. However, being awarded the HDR Engineering Scholarship helped him do so much more. He recently began an internship position with the company.

On Oct. 27 Aiken and a host of other engineering students had the opportunity to thank their scholarship donors at the SCE’s annual donor/scholar luncheon.

Live demonstrations of drones, robots and steel bridge displays served as a testament to the hands-on educational experiences engineering students have been able to obtain with the help of scholarships, loans and grants. As corporate and community partners gathered in Pierson Auditorium, they were blown away by the amount of unique talent and experience showcased, as well as by updates on the increasing impact of the SCE in the Kansas City area and beyond.

The SCE welcomed its largest freshman class of 123 students in August, which Dean Kevin Truman said represents the growth of scholarships the school has to offer. Truman said it is the school’s domestic students who are more likely to rely on financial aid.

“Scholarships and affordability are key decision-making factors for students applying to college, and our growth in scholarships helps the school to attract and retain the very best and brightest students in the region,” said Truman.

As the school continues its pattern of growth, Truman also noted its increasing diversity rate – 28 percent of students represent minority groups and 23 percent of students are women.

“As an urban-serving university we value our mission to educate a diverse student body,” said Truman.

Although her journey to UMKC was also a non-traditional one, senior computer science student and SCE Faculty and Staff Scholarship recipient Imon Stevenson said she has thrived in her academic journey.

“I didn’t get to where I am on my own,” said Stevenson, who also interns at DST Systems. “It took a village of people who saw something in me and were willing to bet on my success.”

As the SCE continues to advance, Truman said its primary goal is to be a leader in learning. Through cutting-edge research, prize-winning student teams, corporate partnerships and a vision to establish a new state-of-the-art student center – the DST Students Services Center, which is set to open in November –  the school is well on its way to accomplishing that goal.

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