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Thirty years after its creation, Kauffman Scholars continues to make a difference for Kansas City students through scholarships to deserving students.
Its founder, the late Ewing Kauffman, wouldn't have had it any other way.
The nonprofit Kauffman Scholars grew from the original group, Project Choice, and now there's KC Scholars. The new program is about to celebrate seven years of hard work on the same day as Kauffman's birthday, Sept. 21st. It offers students scholarships of $50,000 for up to six years.
Thousands of students have benefited from the program, but not a lot of them can say they've had a family member go through each organization.
"On graduation day, my mom cried these big tears, but at the moment was when I realized why she put me in this program," said Anthony Johnson, Jr. He's a Kauffman Scholar and his mom, Demetria was an original Project Choice student.
Demetria dropped out, but in her place, she sent Anthony.
"That was the gift that she wanted to give me," Anthony said. "Something that she could never have."
But she could, in fact, have it. Demetria recently became a KC Scholar and went back to school, thanks to the organization's Adult Learner Scholarships.
KC Scholars also offers Traditional Scholarships for high school students, and a College Match Scholarship for those who want to start saving for college earlier.
"She’s back doing the dream of what she wanted to do," Anthony said. "Life has truly come full circle."
It even circled all the way to Anthony's wife, Precious Johnson.
"At the time, I was like, what scholarship in the world grants you the opportunity to go back to school?" she said.
Precious describes a time in her life that left her feeling discouraged.
"As a little girl in foster care, the one thing that I wanted was to go to college," she said. "I knew that, being in that environment I was in, there was no way that I could get to where I wanted to be."
With Anthony and Demetria's support, they pushed her to apply for KC Scholars.
"I remember in that moment when I got that email [from KC Scholars], I was like, 'OK, I can fulfill my dream because of KC Scholars,'" Precious said.
It's her second chance she never thought she'd have, like the, at least, 6,000 others the program has helped in it's seven years, thanks to Kauffman.
"He believed in giving people chances, and opening up the doors for people who otherwise may not have even a crack of that door open," said Manomay Kidd, Vice President of Scholarship Programs and Operations for the nonprofit.
Kidd was a Project Choice student, herself. Now, she works for the group that helped her.
Anthony's also taking his next steps, getting a masters in education from his alma mater, the University of Central Missouri. He wants to be a teacher and pass along what he learned from Mr. K: everyone deserves a second chance.
"I mean, we all have bad day, so every day is a reset day, to be different, to change, to always, you know, be your best self," he said.
Application for the Adult Learner Scholarship's open on November 14.