KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Together KC Scholars and Royals Charities hosted a high school senior sendoff celebration on Sunday at The K. About 300 scholarship recipients were recognized for their academic achievements.
Betty, Tia and Payton Johnson represent three generations of women in their family — grandmother, mother and daughter. The three are living proof college is open for those in every stage of life.
“I got married early in life, started a family and I did very well in my career. So I didn’t necessarily feel the need to go back at the time, but it was just a personal goal,” Tia Johnson said. “It’s just amazing, just the possibilities, it really opened up a lot of opportunities for me.”
Tia graduated from Rockhurst University with a Bachelor of Science in data analytics. She has helped 11 others apply for and receive the KC Scholars scholarship after she found success through the program.
Her mother Betty Johnson, who currently attends Park University, says college never felt like an option due to the financial commitment.
“When the opportunity came along that you could get money to go back, I just felt like the world opened up for me because I had left it with no intention of going back because of financial needs,” Betty Johnson said. “It’s been real, as they say. I’m finally finishing up with statistics and another class. I was up all last night trying to do that.”
Payton Johnson says going through college with her mother and grandmother has been a unique and supportive experience. They have used each other to help one another grow.
“Just seeing them live their lives and raise us to be successful and then watching them go and achieve their dreams was just beautiful. And so it made me proud — it made me want to push harder,” Payton Johnson said. “I was able to get a full college experience, live on campus and I’m a student-athlete as well.”
For the past six years, KC Scholars has awarded more than 7,000 scholarships worth $50,000. Recipients attend 17 partnering institutions across Missouri and Kansas.
“Ninety-four percent persistence rate, so our scholars are getting to college and then they are successfully getting through college and getting good jobs,” said CEO Earl Martin Phalen. “Most of our graduates are leaving with jobs $45,000 to $85,000 a year plus benefits.”
Kristopher Thompson, an incoming freshman at the University of Kansas, says he hopes to use this opportunity to pay it forward. His dream is to become an anesthesiologist.
“It has really helped me narrow down my choices of college and also is allowing me to attend the University of Kansas," Thompson said. "Without this scholarship, I don’t think I would be able to afford college at all."