KANSAS CITY, Kan. — To say the 2020-2021 school year has been difficult would be an understatement. But for 26 Hispanic graduating seniors at Bishop Ward High School, a tough year turned positive after learning college scholarships were coming their way.
“They feel very proud,” said first-generation, college-bound freshman Jakelin Aldaco “They’re just relieved and they have high hopes for me.”
Aldaco is attending the University of Kansas in the fall to study medicine.
Money from the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund is once again replacing barriers with access.
This year’s application essay was centered around COVID-19, asking students what challenges the pandemic presented on their journey towards college, and how they would give back if possible.
“It was heartbreaking in a lot of cases,” said John Kearney, the director of educational programs at The Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund. “You have some students who have lost family members this year and then you learn of other students who have just experienced mental health issues and isolation.”
Adalco wrote about her family’s struggles to make it through COVID-19 without being able to get federal assistance, like many others.
“A lot of first-generation families don’t really have that many connections, they don’t have as much family around... My family is scattered around,” Adalco said. “I know a lot of families are like that so I think that one of the main things that I want to do in my life is give back to people who are first-generation and help them the way that I wish I could be helped.“
Fellow recipient Reynaldo Lopez wrote about having to stay away from loved ones, in a culture that prides itself on large family gatherings.
“One of the biggest things was not being able to see my grandma. My grandma has been probably the biggest person that has ever been there for me,” said Lopez, who will attend Rockhurst University in the fall. "She’s a sweet little old lady and not being able to see her and my grandpa up at their house was actually really difficult for me.”
Thanks to the vaccine, they’ve since reunited and she is ecstatic about him starting college in the fall.
“She came here and didn’t know much about school and she always feels bad because my dad never really got the schooling he needed, so she was actually really happy for me that I’m going to college and getting it paid for,” Lopez said.
For him, this scholarship means not having to work a part-time job his first semester in college.
For Jakelin, the $2,000 scholarship means waking up with relief each day.
“My family, they’re... we don’t like have a lot of money so having that extra cushion is just a blessing,” Aldaco said. “This year alone just proves that if you have a good amount of people with you that you can achieve anything.“
“We have a number of students who have told us this is maybe the one private scholarship that they received and just getting that news and especially from a Hispanic led and serving organization means so much to our students and community. To feel like my community has my back and supports me and believes in me," Kearney said.
In 37 years, The Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund has awarded 4,000 students with $8 million in college assistance.
The scholarships aim to not only get students in the door, but through the other side — offering college prep for families navigating this process, especially those doing it for the first time.
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