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KCK Schools Surprise Students With Scholarship Offers

Sam Zeff

When you get called down to the office in high school it is often for something unpleasant.

But for 575 Kansas City, Kansas School District students that surprise call might be exactly the boost they need to go to college. "It was like, surprising and really thrilling. Like, yes, wow, finally," says Wyandotte High School senior Katya Diaz right after she picked up her offer from Kansas City Kansas Community College Monday.

KCK schools wanted to start the scholarship process earlier so students knew they had an offer in hand and could plan for other financial aid such as Pell Grants. So the district went to about a dozen area colleges including the University of Kansas, UMKC, Johnson County Community College, Avila University and Park University with the idea of identifying scholarship students early and offering them aid.

Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR
Scholarship offers waiting to be handed out at Wyandotte High School in KCK. In all, 575 students in KCK will be offered early financial aid.

KCKPS Chief of Staff David Smith says some students with high ACT scores and GPAs will get several offers. But many others, he says, who never thought college was within their reach will also be offered aid.

“But imagine the power of somebody saying to you in the fall of your senior year, we want you to come to our school and we have some money to help you to do that,” says Smith.

For some students, knowing they already have financial aid waiting will keep them focused on academics at a time when some seniors might start to slip.

“It puts seniors in a particular mindset to stay focused on the important aspects of school for the year," says Dr. Michael Burns, interim dean of enrollment at KCKCC. “Now, since you know you’ve got something to work toward you’re not going to be as willing or able to make bad choices while in school.”

Burns was the one who gave Katya Diaz the good news Monday morning right after class started at Wyandotte. But nobody thinks Diaz will be making any bad choices. She's near the top of her class and already plans to pursue an architecture degree after community college. Diaz is the oldest of four children of a single dad who works construction.

She says the $1,500 a year offer from KCKCC helps in a big way as she tries to set an example for her younger siblings. “I absolutely do my best in school for them so that they can actually see me as their role model," Diaz says.  “I need to make sure they’re on the right path.”

KCK says it will take about three weeks to get the scholarship offers into the hands of all the seniors that have earned them. Officials say some students will be offered aid that might pay for all tuition, books and fees.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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