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More than Scholarships

Foundations don’t seek recognition for the work they do. They are uncomfortable in the spotlight, preferring instead to shine it upon their hard-working nonprofit partners.

But sometimes an event designed to show gratitude to a funder can become much more that. Here at the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we had a chance to experience this firsthand during the recent Johnson Scholarship Day celebration at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Students at a tableJohnson Scholarship Day gave JSF staff a chance to meet more than 100 students who are recipients of PBA’s Johnson Scholarships. In total there are more than 800 academically talented and service-oriented Johnson Scholars at PBA, a Christian university of about 3,850 students in West Palm Beach, Florida.

This was the second year the university has hosted Johnson Scholarship Day. It was special to JSF for several reasons, but three in particular stood out to us.

First, it was a chance for JSF to get to know the students. During PBA’s Johnson Scholarship Day, we had a chance to enjoy refreshments and sit down with college students, a famously busy lot. They told us about their hometowns and their future plans. They also shared what the scholarship means to them.

Students wearing johnson scholarship day shirtsMany of them spoke about financial need and how the scholarship helped fill in the gaps in their financial aid. Some said the scholarship gave them encouragement to stay focused on their studies. As Johnson Scholar Primose Lataillade told us, “It teaches us that people believe in us.”

Second, it was a chance for the students to get to know JSF. Our founders, the late Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson, came to know PBA through their personal friendship with PBA Founding Board Chairman Dr. Donald Warren.

PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. described Mr. Johnson as a remarkable man who loved PBA students. Because of Mr. Johnson’s admiration for the university, PBA has been a grant recipient – one of the Foundation’s largest – since JSF’s inception in 1991.

JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod gave the students additional insight into Mr. Johnson, who shared Dr. Warren’s belief that a school like PBA had the potential to slow what many perceived at the time as a moral decline in America. “He felt that this was a great investment in society,” he said.

Sharon Wood at Johnson Scholarship DayThird, it was a chance for JSF to see the return on not just one but two of its investments. During the event, we learned that at least one of the students in the room was well acquainted with JSF long before she ever set foot on PBA’s campus.

As a student at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, this student spent all four years in the Johnson Scholars program, a college readiness program that is a partnership among JSF, the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County. Students who complete the program receive a college scholarship. For this young woman, that scholarship enabled her to continue her studies at PBA.

To us, stories like hers and the others we heard are what Johnson Scholarship Day was really about. We are proud of all of our Johnson Scholars at PBA, as well as those at other colleges, universities and schools throughout Florida, the United States and Canada.

Lady Hereford is a program specialist with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. She has spent significant time working in journalism and public relations, and she assists the Foundation’s communications efforts as it expands its impact across sectors. More information about the Johnson Scholarship Foundation can be found at www.jsf.bz.

Succeeding as a First-Generation Student

I understand. It seems too easy for some of us. At times, it also seems like too much for some of us.

To all of the first-generation students, I want to say I am proud of you! This is something that some of us hear too often and the rest of us wish we could hear more. As a person who was once in your shoes, I am proud BECAUSE of your determination, persistence, and selflessness. You are strong (mentally and symbolically). Yes, all eyes will be on you. But you do not have to succumb to the scrutiny. Keep your eyes fixed on your goals and “keep swimming.”

Galdwin Stewart with arm around womanThere is no guide for the journey that you have embarked on. You will hear plenty of stories, but not everything will come close to your lived experience. From one proud Johnson Scholarship Foundation first-generation student to all that will follow, here are some tips, affirmations, and food for thought:

  1. Work hard for you! We oftentimes forget to think about ourselves as first-gen students. Our family is and always will be important to us, but this is our lives and we have to do what makes us happy as well. Your family will be happy for you regardless.
  2. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Stopping to smell the roses is important. We can get caught up in the daily grind and forget to stop and take a breath, catch a sunset, or go for a walk to decompress. If you are not 100 percent, then you cannot give 100 percent to the activities or people in your life.
  3. Gadwin Stewart, Johnson ScholarNot giving up when times get tough. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man (or woman) is not where he (she) stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he (she) stands in times of challenge and controversy.” What you do when times get tough will define your persistence and resilience. Remember that some of the eyes that are watching are hoping you fail. Don’t let their hopes come true at your expense.
  4. You are the first, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect. There is room for mistakes and learning along the way. Find a support system (person or group of people) and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
  5. Sharing your experiences with your family will make them feel like they are a part of your journey. Sharing is truly caring. What you share with your family could inspire a family member to follow in your footsteps.
  6. Growth is inevitable. It is okay to grow and still cherish the values that you were raised with. You will always sound different, dress different, and even behave differently to someone somewhere. When they say you have changed, tell them that all caterpillars must grow wings, eventually.

“To whom much is given, much will be required.” – Luke 12:48

Walking the ‘Last Mile’ Through Graduate Support

Providing low-income, minority boys from Boston with the rigorous, affordable education that they deserve is part of our daily work at Nativity Preparatory School.

However, we see — as do the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and many in the education world —  the serious need to help bridge “the last mile” for disadvantaged students. Progress in this area continues, but it must have the end goal in mind. We should applaud a test score improvement in our middle schools, but what if that doesn’t translate to high school success? We should celebrate a formerly-struggling student’s college acceptance, but what if they can’t afford to ever complete a degree?

Young students raising their hands in classAt Nativity Prep — profiled by JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod in a post titled “Small, but Mighty” — a crucial part of our vision and model is bridging that “last mile” through investing in graduate support.

Staffed by two full-time professionals, our Graduate Support Office (GSO) offers targeted resources and programming to ensure that the academic growth, character formation and call to service of our graduating students is supported and encouraged through high school, college and beyond. Our results so far have been a 99 percent high school graduation rate, 84 percent college enrollment rate, and 64 percent college graduation rate, but we know that collaboration with others and sharing best practices can help us all do even better.

Here’s what our program looks like:

Academic: Going from our small, structured and supportive environment to elite, academically-challenging independent schools is a big transition. The GSO provides regular tutoring sessions and academic advising to our high school and college alumni. Each April, roughly 50 percent of each high school junior class takes advantage of our free college visit tour of top regional schools.

Two young men standing in front of a treeFinancial: Despite working with high schools and colleges to get the best financial aid for our graduates, gaps as small as a few hundred dollars can be insurmountable for some families. Our Last Dollar Aid program fills those gaps, while a partnership with Nebraska Book Company, Inc. helps ensure that steep textbook costs don’t get in the way of academic success.

Social: Social transitions can also be difficult when minority students are so underrepresented in independent and higher education. Nativity Prep is always an open and safe space for our alumni, many of whom can be found visiting teachers and old friends each day. The GSO regularly checks in and visits with students to provide mentorship, remind them of available resources and let them know that the Nativity community is there for them. Connecting graduating 8th graders or high schoolers with other Nativity alumni at their new schools often provides a friendly face in a new environment.

Career: Tapping into our generous circle of supporters, Board members and volunteers in Boston, we regularly offer internship opportunities and networking connections for alumni to explore career options. Social capital can often be just as valuable as “educational capital.

Three men hugging each otherAlumni Engagement: At the end of the day, our alumni are brothers for life. We make sure we provide regular opportunities for alumni to gather, share challenges and celebrate one other!

As students move through primary, secondary and higher education, one educational institution can never provide all of the support and answers. Investing in graduate support and building a life-long community is our way of walking with them on the “last mile” of their educational journey.

A Recipe for Success, Part 2

In honor of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, we bring you the second in a two-part series on the Johnson Scholarship Program. Now in its 26th year, the program provides scholarships for students with disabilities and a network of support services to enhance student success.

Research shows that there is a great gap between educational expectations and reality for students with disabilities.

A 2006 National Longitudinal Transition Study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and Institute of Education Sciences showed that 85 percent of youth with disabilities plan to complete some form of post-secondary education (26 percent expected to complete a post-secondary vocational, technical or trade school; 34 percent expected to graduate from a two-year college; 25 percent expected to graduate from a four-year college). However, the same study also indicates that only one in 10 of these students actually complete any sort of post-secondary education (5 percent graduated from a post-secondary vocational, technical or trade school; 4 percent graduated from a two-year college; 1 percent graduated from a four-year college).

Group of students pointing towards Disability Resource CenterThe Johnson Scholarship Program helps to narrow the gap between expectation and attainment. Data kept by Florida Atlantic University finds that 66.1 percent of the students receiving at least one scholarship disbursement have graduated and another 20 percent are still enrolled in post-secondary education. The role of the Disability Support Services (DSS) office in helping students through this process cannot be overstated.

The good work of the DSS in delivering the scholarship program to students is enabled by its partnership with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and the Florida Board of Governors’ office. The scholarship program depends upon a unique collaboration among the philanthropic, higher education and legislative sectors.

State university system of florida board of governors logoThe Board of Governors Office performs essential leadership functions. It serves as a liaison between the Foundation and the universities, disseminates information on best practices, and helps to standardize processes. It manages and distributes the scholarship money to the various SUSF schools and it also provides expertise on legislative and policy changes that might affect students with disabilities.

The Board of Governors scales the support of students with disabilities to a state level, providing a greater platform for advocacy and building allies across sector lines in Florida. Such allies are invaluable as students with disabilities graduate from college and pursue employment.

At the heart of the partnership among JSF, the Board of Governor’s Office and the campus DSS is a one-day annual meeting, convened by JSF. The purpose of this meeting is to review the performance of the scholarship program, discuss developments affecting students with disabilities and best practices and opportunities for learning and collaboration. Professionals from outside the SUSF are sometimes invited to attend the annual meeting and speak on issues relevant to students with disabilities and their educators.

Group photo of peopleThe underlying reason for JSF’s mission in education is to facilitate meaningful employment. Unfortunately, there is huge underemployment of people with disabilities, even those with university degrees. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS) data released in June 2017, the unemployment rates for people with disabilities is more than double the rate for people without disabilities. The under employment of students with disabilities has been a recurring topic of discussion at JSF Scholarship annual meetings.

The Johnson Scholarship Program for students with disabilities is based upon a unique working relationship among JSF, the State of Florida, the SUSF and the university campuses, particularly the DSS at each campus. It is this partnership that has made the scholarship program successful. We have repeatedly noted that the real value of the program is in the work of the people involved (rather than the money).

Graphic saying "we're all able to do anything!"The program builds on infrastructure, expertise and resources that are already in place in the state of Florida.  The Board of Governors is the governing body for its 12 state universities and DSS are well established at each campus. The delivery of the Scholarship Program causes additional work for these partners but the incremental cost is small compared to the benefits.

The JSF SUSF Scholarship Program is a proven winner that is easily replicable in other states. The administrative machinery, DSS and a philanthropic sector are already in place. All that is required is an individual or group of individuals to champion the program.

For more information about Johnson Scholarship Foundation, visit www.jsf.bz.

A Recipe for Success

In honor of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, we bring you the first in a two-part series on the Johnson Scholarship Program. Now in its 26th year, the program provides scholarships for students with disabilities and a network of support services to enhance student success.

What if scholarships weren’t really about the money?

As a private philanthropic foundation, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation invests to obtain the highest possible rate of return. The return on its scholarship grants is defined by the rate of successful matriculation and completion of post-secondary education.

JSF has learned that scholarships that include wraparound support are more likely to help a student to succeed. Money provides the financial stability and opportunity for post-secondary education, but it is not what gets a student through. Non-monetary supports attached to a scholarship contribute more to post-secondary success than money. This is especially true for students with disabilities.

state university system of florida board of governors logoJSF’s scholarship for people with disabilities attending a school within the State University System of Florida (SUSF) delivers both scholarship and non-monetary support by way of a collaboration of JSF, the SUSF and the Florida Legislature. Scholarships are awarded to students with disabilities who enroll at any one of the 12 SUSF campuses.

The program was founded in 1991. It began with an agreement between JSF’s founder, Theodore Johnson, and the State of Florida, which was expressed by an Act of the Legislature entitled “…The Johnson Scholarship Program.”  This Act provides for a scholarship program for students with disabilities to be funded by JSF. It also provides for a 50 percent state match for JSF grants and charges the Department of Education to administer the program.

Over the past 26 years JSF has made grants exceeding $9 million, which have all gone to student scholarships, together with the state match. However, the State’s commitment to administer the scholarship program has proven even more valuable than its matching funding.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation logoThe Florida Board of Governor’s office and each campus of the State University System form the backbone of a comprehensive student support system, which accompanies the scholarship. This is the secret sauce that makes the scholarship work. The award of the scholarship may capture a student’s attention, but the real magic of the scholarship lies in the mentoring and assistance that goes with it.

This is not to downplay the importance of money. Without it, JSF has no mission and there are no scholarships. Money is assuredly the main course. But it is the secret sauce that enables students to sit down and stay for dinner. And it is the secret sauce that students remember long afterward. Scholarships plus Supports equals Achievement ($ + S = A).

Secret sauce can be defined as the personal, non-monetary support, wrapped around the scholarship. The Disability Support Services (DSS) at each campus plays a critical role. It advertises the scholarship, receives the applications, leads the selection process, makes the award and provides ongoing support to scholarship recipients. JSF believes that the DSS’ ownership and control of this scholarship process and the support that they provide to each student throughout their college careers is central to the increased persistence and graduation rates of students with disabilities on each campus.

inclusion drives innovation posterThe scholarship program provides reciprocal benefits to the DSS offices, one of which is enhanced awareness of disability issues in other areas of the university. Ten of the 12 DSSs surveyed indicated that they use a selection committee to determine scholarship recipients. The selection committees are comprised of faculty and professionals drawn from various university departments. This increases knowledge of the special aspects and requirements of students with disabilities, thus producing allies for these students across campus. Another enhancement of the DSS profile within the university stems from a supplementary matching grant for scholarships that JSF offers to each SUSF campus. The local DSS office typically takes a leadership role in negotiating the grant and advocating for the matching funds within the university and the development office.

The most important reciprocal benefit that the scholarship provides is the enhanced opportunities for students to connect with the DSS staff and services. Eight out of 12 DSS offices report an increase in the use of services because the scholarship has heightened awareness of the office and the services it has to offer.

The enhanced relationship between the DSS and scholarship recipient gives the DSS access to the recipient’s academic progress. Some schools take advantage of this to determine when they need to offer appropriate guidance, support or to consider or reconsider accommodations. Even the act of applying for the scholarship can help students form social and support networks.

Ability Not Disability Graphic

The benefits of mentoring and support for post-secondary students, particularly those at risk, seem self-evident. Anecdotal evidence abounds. However, there is not much reported research. In Mentoring Individuals with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: A Review of the Literature, Brown, Takahashi, and Roberts find distinct themes in the research that was available:

Within these 10 articles, however, several themes did emerge, including: a) the positive role of technology; b) the desire to use current mentees to become future mentors; c) a focus on specific disability groups, such as learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and disabilities perceived as mild; d) the usefulness of mentoring for academic, career, and social skills; and e) the value of establishing long-term mentoring relationships.

The DSS at each SUSF campus responds to most of the themes identified by the authors. These offices typically provide adaptive technology, expertise and focus on specific disability groups, academic and social mentoring and long-term relationships. The JSF Scholarship Program also strengthens long-term relationships between the DSS and scholarship recipients. In addition to the annual application and award process, local DSS offices organize recognition events attended by students, parents and faculty. Many times, JSF representatives are in attendance as well.

Next week: Bridging the gap between educational expectations and reality for students with  disabilities.

Leading by Example: The Five Conditions of Collective Impact

Collective Impact initiatives are difficult to describe until they begin to crystallize into action, require an immense amount of consideration, intention and thoughtfulness and can feel frustratingly slow at times. So why on earth would a group of stakeholders, usually organizations and communities already heavily taxed with work, take on this messy process?

Woman resting her hands and head on stack of books

Perhaps the answer is because we all have learned that working independently … doesn’t work. With Collective Impact we have an opportunity to not only create systemic change, but to find ways to elevate and support the work of each stakeholder involved.

Understanding the process of Collective Impact for some can take a moment simply because competition is embedded in our culture even among organizations and entities that by their very nature exist to uplift others. It is hard for us to imagine that non-profit, civic, faith-based, education and community partners could come together around one common goal long enough to make permanent and systemic change. However all over the country communities are suspending disbelief long enough to allow for the necessary growth process of such a project to make significant change. We are seeing this in the Achieve Palm Beach County initiative currently underway in Florida.

Achieve Palm Beach County Logo

Achieve Palm Beach County is a Collective Impact initiative that has been in community planning sessions since 2015 and has recently reached the point where the initiative is ready to begin implementation. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation is a supporter of this initiative. Achieve PBC’s mission is to ensure an integrated and effective system of supports from middle school through post-secondary that empowers Palm Beach County students for career success. By 2023 this collective wants to have at least 65 percent of PBC high school graduates completing college or career preparation education within six years of graduation.

The Georgetown Center on Education and Workforce predicts that of all new jobs created in Florida by 2020, 68 percent will require a post-secondary credential. In the School District of Palm Beach County, only 42.3 percent of all graduates and 31.5 percent of low-income graduates are predicted to receive a post-secondary credential within six years of high school graduation. The School District of Palm Beach County has a clear strategic plan which outlines the significance of post-secondary success and was a great informer as Achieve began. Over 160 stakeholders from universities, faith based organizations, government agencies, non-profits, the school district, community groups and human service organizations came together create a plan for addressing the county’s future labor needs and the goal of every student having the opportunity to access post-secondary education.

Two hands putting a puzzle piece togetherTo accomplish this goal the United Way of Palm Beach County is serving as the backbone organization thus providing a credible and organized infrastructure to the collective’s strategies and staff. Like every Collective Impact initiative, Achieve Palm Beach County must ensure that the five conditions developed by John Kania and Mark Kramer in 2011 are met in order for there to be systems change across a community.

The Five Conditions developed by Kania and Kramer are as follows:

  • Common Agenda: All participants share a common agenda for change that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving the problem through agreed upon actions.
  • Shared Measurement: All participating organizations agree on the ways success will be measured and reported. A short list of common indicators is used for learning and improvement.
  • Mutually Reinforcing Activities: A diverse set of stakeholders, typically across sectors, coordinate a set of differentiated activities through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.
  • Continuous Communication: All players engage in frequent and structured communication to build trust, assure mutual objective and create common motivation.
  • Backbone Support: Staff dedicated to the initiative provide ongoing support by guiding the initiative’s vision and strategy, supporting the aligned activities, establishing shared measurement practices, building public will and mobilizing resources.

Woman writing in a note bookThis framework sets the stage for rules of engagement as communities begin to work together in unprecedented ways to tackle some of the seemingly overwhelming issues that can affect our lives and will determine if the generations of the future are simply surviving or thriving. As organizations and adults involved in Collective Impact work, we are learning a new way to think about how to create a better world, communicate with each other, incorporate and validate differing experiences and streamline funding sources to make a larger impact without diminishing services. As stated above, this work can be messy.  We are indoctrinated into a certain way of operating that takes time to unravel.  We have organizational fears around autonomy.  In the non-profit and education sectors, where we are used to competing for the same resources, we are learning how to work with each other in trusting ways that evoke all of the natural progressions and obstacles of change. The work it takes to move a community in an agreed upon direction allows adults across many sectors the opportunity to lead by example in our ability to collaborate for something much bigger than any of us could accomplish alone. The Collective Impact structure allows not only for macro level change truly reflective of community goals, but reveals the best in who we are and what we can achieve together.

3 Reasons Why Higher Education is Good for America

Higher education is no stranger to controversy, but once again the merits of this venerable institution are being called into question. A spate of bad publicity about open speech, hazing and the cost of higher ed has many Americans wondering if a college degree is really worth the effort.

Wall with the word university on itThose doubts resonate in the results of a highly publicized Pew Research Center survey in which a growing segment of the population indicated that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.

At the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we have long believed that higher education is the main pathway to employment and the American dream. Our grantee partners work hard to level the playing field for students who want to attend college but find themselves at a disadvantage by no fault of their own.

And while no college or university is perfect, there are countless reasons why higher education is good for the nation. Here are three that come to mind.

Father holding a small child's handHigher education is good for families. Much has been written about the costs associated with college and the lingering impact of student loan debt. Those are reasonable concerns, even for students fortunate enough receive help from scholarships.

It’s also well known that postsecondary education is the key to a better income for many people. According to the College Board’s report Education Pays 2016, those 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree who were working full time in 2015 had median earnings that were $24,600, or 67 percent, higher than their counterparts with only a high school diploma.

As Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at the College Board and a coauthor of the report, puts it, “A college education is an investment that pays dividends over the course of a lifetime — even for students who accumulate some debt to obtain a degree.”

Business man reading the business section of a newspaperHigher education is good for society. As students graduate from college, they increase their chances of finding work that is rewarding emotionally and financially. Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released additional findings: Although many people are concerned about how colleges and universities are impacting the country overall, they also believe that institutions of higher education are successful at preparing students for good jobs in the current economy.

There is also a link between civic engagement and higher education, such as the College Board’s finding that adults with more education were more likely to vote than those with less education. It is reasonable to assume that those who are more engaged are more likely to hold public office and other positions of authority someday.

Which brings us to this point: Higher education is good for our future. Colleges and universities don’t just train students to write excellent term papers. They encourage them to become critical thinkers. The colleges, universities and organizations with whom we partner actively encourage students to become leaders in their workplaces and communities.

Group of young people smiling for the cameraAs a result, we often hear from students who are the first in their families to attend college and now are role models for other family members.  We see many graduates starting their own businesses and becoming job creators. We know of students with disabilities who are graduating and embarking on meaningful careers. We hear about college graduates are involved in nonprofits and giving to charitable causes.

These stories aren’t the ones that make headlines, but these students and graduates are truly making a difference both on and off campus. All of this, we believe, bodes well for America’s future.

Summer Program Aims to Help Students with Disabilities Transition to College

Florida agricultural and mechanical university logoOn June 18, the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) welcomed 32 students to the 2017 Summer College Study Skills Institute (CSSI). This program is an alternative admissions program for students with disabilities designed to acclimate the students to the FAMU campus while focusing on providing them with study skills that will lead to their collegiate academic success.

The CSSI is part of a two-year retention program designed to assist students with matriculating to their academic majors and graduating from FAMU.

FAMU William Hudson, Bea Awoniyi, Jovanny Felix, Angela ColemanEarlier this year, CeDAR was awarded a five-year grant from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which will be supported by the FAMU Foundation, to enhance the CSSI program and to create an endowment for CeDAR. This generous grant will allow CeDAR to provide specific instructional support focusing on students’ disabilities and study skills that complement and assist each participant’s particular disability.

The premise behind this grant’s approach is to focus on study styles that students may not have developed while in the K-12 educational system. In addition, each participant receives a $3,000 scholarship for the summer with the intent to minimize any college debt that students may incur during the semester.

With the funding that we receive from JSF and the FAMU Foundation, the program can really work on closing the learning gap in regards to their study skills and habits at the beginning of their collegiate career — which is a crucial time in their academic transitioning. In addition, the summer scholarship diminishes the stress that parents and students have about educational debt.

student reading a bookThe CSSI program allows students to enroll in six to seven college credit hours and includes informational, social and academic based activities.

The 2017 CSSI Summer Program will conclude on Aug. 4 and will include a “Victory Brunch” recapping and celebrating the students’ completion of the summer program.

‘Believe in Yourself’: A Star Student Shares Tips for Scholarship Success

Nancy Stellway, Karla Menchu-Saban and Suzanne Boyd (Photo by Living Exposure)

Photo courtesy of Carl Dawson/Living Exposure

From the time she was in middle school, recent high school graduate Karla Menchu-Saban set her sights on attending Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

“I used to say, ‘One day I will study and graduate there,’” said the teen, who attended Lake Worth Community High School, a few miles up the road from FAU.

Her dream is coming true, and in a big way. The first-generation college student will be attending FAU this fall with all expenses paid, thanks to several scholarships.

Since her freshman year, she has participated in the JSF-funded Johnson Scholars college preparatory program at her school. The program, offered at seven high schools (10 next year) in partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County, provides mentoring and other support for students to make a successful transition to college.

Those who successfully complete the program are guaranteed a two-year tuition scholarship. However, that was just the beginning for Karla. She was named a finalist and eventual recipient of Take Stock in Children’s Leaders 4 Life Fellowship, which offers up to $40,000 for college. Only six highly motivated students from across the state of Florida were selected for this award.

(To see a video of Karla finding out she had been chosen for the fellowship, click here.)

A mom and her three children

She said that she is grateful to God and her family, friends and community for helping her to reach this point. “I hope one day I can give back, and I don’t expect anything back because it comes from my heart,” she said.

During her high school years, she maintained a high GPA while being dual enrolled in classes at Palm Beach State College. She also was involved in her school’s Air Force ROTC program.

At FAU, she plans to study education. She also has an interest in nursing and eventually would like to work in the field of pediatrics.

What advice does she have for other high school students who hope to obtain scholarships?

Karla Menchu-SabanWe all have the ability to accomplish anything. “We all have goals and dreams to accomplish,” she said. “The only way to complete that is by having your head up. Have a positive attitude and believe in yourself.”

We all can overcome any circumstance, no matter what. “I know there can be many obstacles that can hold you back, but it’s up to you overcome that issue. You must think of whom your benefiting and why are you doing it.”

Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to seek out guidance. “Mentors are individuals who offer support, guidance and encouragement. They help a child to build their dreams and goals.”

Cake with logos in icingAmong those she considers her mentors are her mother, Maria Saban; Take Stock In Children Palm Beach County Executive Director Nancy Stellway; Johnson Scholars Program Specialist Wanda Kirby; Johnson Scholars Site Coordinator Abbe Gleicher; Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Director of Program Services Marilyn Schiavo; Palm Beach State College Post Secondary Advisor Cynthia Trager; Lake Worth High School Assistant Principal Caelethia Clemons; and her family, friends “and every individual who supported me in every aspect. They all were there from the beginning and will be there for me until the end.”

Lastly, perseverance is the key to success. “My dream came true based on my willingness to strive for excellence in my education, along with perseverance.”

Three Reasons Why a Native MBA is About More Than Business

profile photo of young womanBusiness skills are certainly essential in any good business degree experience, but they alone will not create meaningful social and environmental change or provide greater economic opportunity.  Only when students possess a strong network of support, a sense of what works, and an appreciation of what doesn’t can they be powerful leaders of change.  Here are some examples:

A shared “best-practice” environment. A universal truth of our experience working with members of more than two dozen tribal communities in the Gonzaga University MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship program is that there is no universal “tribal” identity.  Every tribe has its own governance structure, its own resource opportunities, its own leadership, and its own ways to doing things.  One of the most important elements of the Gonzaga MBA-AIE experience has been and continues to be the opportunity to learn how their colleagues in other tribal organizations get things done – how they move change, how they identify opportunities, how they build coalitions, and how they examine and explain results.

Tcloseup of calculator, paper clips and peno enable compassion and common understanding of challenges. Just as our program provides a pulpit for students to explore and understand what is working, similar value is found in understanding when well-meaning organizations are heading in the wrong direction.  The challenges facing tribal communities are vast, often relying on resources that are unavailable, expertise that can be difficult to muster, and a history that promotes a pessimistic outlook.  Our students benefit from the opportunity to share where things went wrong, and in doing so understand that while sometimes it might be better everywhere else, sometimes it’s not.  They learn that we all face the same challenges, challenges that call for broader intervention with policy, structure, education.

people wearing graduation caps and gownsTo create community. While a great deal of what we do in the classroom focuses on providing tools and applications, an essential byproduct of that experience is the development of a community of learners dedicated to themselves and each other.  Our 60-plus alumni stay in touch with each other – particularly with their cohorts, with whom they spend two years learning skills and gaining knowledge alongside one another.  Given the systemic nature of the problems faced by many native communities and the vast human and financial resources needed to fix them, relationships are important. One of the most powerful tools our students possess is the ability to call a friend and colleague who understands their challenge, knows their abilities, and can recommend action.

Over the past fifteen years, nearly 75 students have taken part in the Gonzaga University MBA in American Indian Entrepreneurship.  This program, originally created to provide opportunities to business educators in native communities and tribal colleges, has adapted over the years to focus on one of the most pressing challenges in Indian Country – the development of empowered individuals who seek change and possess the technical skills to make change sustainable and meaningful.

closeup of a 2017 graduation cap and tasselOurs is not the only program to focus specifically on the challenges facing tribal communities and native populations, and in the current environment of higher education where every degree and program must justify its unique contribution to the educational landscape, it is appropriate to ask the question why we need “native” MBA programs.  We need them because they help students and businesses thrive in Indigenous communities.