Leah Van Weelden
After partnering with Give Back in 2017, Baker University was given $1 million to change students’ lives. The grant was intended to alleviate the financial burden of college for 50 future Baker students, nine of which are currently enrolled.
Give Back’s mission is to provide high school students with greater accessibility to the college entrance process through ongoing mentorship and a full scholarship, covering tuition and room and board. The process is targeted toward high schoolers who have experienced economic hardship and other adversities such as navigating the foster care system, incarceration of parents or homelessness.
Give Back’s National Director of Enrollment and Program Director for Kansas Lydia Matlock said she believes it’s important to help these students who have gone through hardships because they might need additional assistance with the transition to college.
Matlock and Katie Latta, Give Back’s Assistant Program Director for Kansas, oversee the entire state and have been involved in every Kansas Give Back students’ story in some way. 150 students in the state have attended college through the program, made possible by a $3 million donation from a Leawood, Kan. family.
“We’ve seen that it’s going to change trajectories,” Matlock said. “It’s going to change how kids see their futures; it’s going to give them more opportunities.”
Beginning their freshman year of high school, these students go through a rigorous application process. After qualifying to receive the Pell Grant, they must complete two essays and a short answer question, compile a list of their involvements, receive two letters of reference and submit test scores and transcripts. The entire process emulates that of other applications that are typically completed during senior year of high school.
“It tells us right away the students who are in it, the students who are so driven,” Matlock said. “These kids are 14 years old and completing these huge applications. It really does set them apart from their peers early on in their high school careers.”
When Baker University chose to partner with Give Back, it gave students an opportunity to explore all that a Baker education has to offer. By bringing more awareness to the accessibility and impact that liberal arts schools can have, it widened Baker’s reach according to Danielle Jones Rease, Baker’s Vice President of Advancement and Enrollment Management.
“Baker University is proud to partner with organizations like Give Something Back and KC Scholars,” Jones Rease said. “Together we are able to reach students who may have never heard of Baker or those who feared that our university was not within their financial means.”
According to Matlock, the size of the student body, as well as the interest that faculty and staff have in helping students succeed, is what helps cultivate a welcoming and safe environment for every student. The Student Academic Success office also plays a role in ensuring a smooth transition into college.
“We’re really impressed with [Baker’s] academic support services,” Latta said. “The time and attention that not only their office but other professors and instructors seem to take on with the students is really an environment that I think our students will thrive in.”
The impact of Baker’s partnership with Give Back will continue to be felt by the next 41 students to attend college free of financial burden.