Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

Celebration of Scholarships Luncheon

On June 6th, AAACF held an inaugural event, a Celebration of Scholarships Luncheon, to honor our scholarship donors, committee volunteers, and recipients.

At the luncheon, sponsored by Dykema and held at Washtenaw Community College, we celebrated the continued success of AAACF’s Community Scholarship Program (CSP) and honored the legacies of the many scholarship funds created prior to the establishment of CSP in Fall 2014.

Keynote speaker Dr. Derrick Darby, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, discussed how to understand and address educational inequities. Dr. Darby’s research for his forthcoming book, The Color of Mind: Why the Origins of the Achievement Gap Matter for Justice, reveals the way in which the US educational system as a whole places youth of color at a disadvantage due to unequal treatment within the classroom.

Dr. Darby exhorted everyone in the room about ways they can help to make a difference, as he urged that ordinary people can live extraordinary lives. This is evidenced by his own story, which began in Queensbridge, New York, home to the largest public housing project in North America. Dr. Darby attributes his success to the support of his family as well as dedicated teachers and mentors.

Encouraging success and providing support are essential components of the Community Scholarship Program. CSP was carefully designed based on research and a close partnership with Washtenaw Futures, the local college access network hosted by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Local data from Washtenaw Futures confirmed national findings that three groups stand to benefit the most from higher education degrees yet often lack the resources to achieve them: students from low-income families, students of color, and first-generation college students. CSP provides multi-year scholarships for students from these three populations because research also shows that the later years of college are the hardest to find support and multi-year scholarships provide incentive to graduate with a post-secondary degree or certificate. Because our primary goal is degree attainment, CSP also provides a “success coach” for CSP Scholars to encourage successful navigation through their educational journeys.   

 

The current CSP Success Coach, Shawntae Harris, also spoke at the luncheon about the importance of ongoing guidance and resources. Ms. Harris explained: “You see, sometimes it’s not the obvious challenges that can make a difference between a student persisting and achieving or not. Yes, money is important but so is having someone to provide encouragement and to talk through roommate conflicts or a disappointing grade.”  

 

Shawntae will help to train additional success coaches as the CSP program and cohorts of scholars continues to grow. The anonymous new donor who launched the program with a $1M gift last year included a $250,000 challenge match for a Level the Playing Field Fund within CSP to “level the playing field” for students with financial need graduating from Washtenaw County public schools. Thanks to gifts small and large, including new funds created under the CSP umbrella and one conversion of an existing scholarship fund, the quarter-million dollar match was met! The Community Scholarship Program is truly for the community and by the community! 

 

Even better, another donor has been inspired to continue matching new gifts. Certainly ordinary individuals can make extraordinary differences and scholarships can transform lives. We truly do “celebrate scholarships” and thank everyone who makes them possible.