KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At Ruskin High School in Kansas City, Missouri, every day is a great day to be an eagle.
But for many students, the idea of college can feel endangered, just as the mascot once was.
After leaving the nest and graduating in 2014, Brenan Latimer was always intent on helping those who came after him.
A few years ago, he and two others formed “The Future of Us.” It’s a nonprofit that gives scholarships to students who may not soar above the clouds when it comes to testing scores or other more common metrics.
“There’s a whole bunch of middle-of-the-road students metric-wise that deserve to be there but often come from communities that can’t afford to put them there,” Latimer said.
The student this scholarship aims to help isn’t a conventional student, and this isn’t a conventional application process.
“We accept nontraditional submissions,” Latimer said. “We’ve gotten video, poetry, short stories. College is hard enough as it is. Expensive enough as it is. And it’s even harder when you consider these kids may be living in poverty.”
Imagine becoming a great student and working to excel in classes just weeks after moving to the U.S. from another country.
“Deburah Awopetu is from Nigeria and moved here just weeks before the start of the pandemic," Awopetu said, describing herself. "Just weeks into settling into class, coursework and a new country, schools went virtual. And this Ruskin Eagle still managed to spread her wings and fly."
She’s the latest recipient of the Future of Us scholarship.
“Trying to get the idea of being a high schooler. What to say, what not to say. Things I’m supposed to do,” Deburah said as she recalls her last two years of high school.
There’s also a mentorship component and regular check-ins associated with the scholarship, something Latimer created just two months after speaking the idea into existence.
While Latimer says he always wanted to give back likely later in his life, his plan took an unexpected turn in 2019.
“I got cancer. I knew I was far along in the stages of cancer, and not knowing what’s going to happen next," he said. "It put a sense of urgency into me, and that’s where I kind of realized I don’t have to be a millionaire to make a difference — I can do this right now.”
Through the work of Latimer and two of his friends via The Future of Us, this scholarship means one less thing Awopetu has to worry about as she starts her freshman year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“And then I can just focus on my work," she said. "Focus on building relationships, networking and being the best version of myself.”
All proving that even during storms, the sky belongs to the eagles.