In recognition of the third anniversary of the UNCF/Koch Scholars Program – a partnership between Koch Industries and the United Negro College Fund – 10 distinguished award winners were welcomed to the company’s main campus Sept. 8 in Wichita, Kansas.
The daylong event began with a special breakfast and one-hour meet-and-greet with Charles Koch, followed later by a formal Mayor’s Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency benefitting UNCF, with remarks from Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF, and Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell.
“The support that we’ve received from Charles Koch and the Koch Foundation of a $25 million gift three years ago to create the Koch Scholars Program is within the tradition of extraordinary philanthropy from American corporations and foundations to support the work that the UNCF does every day,” said Dr. Lomax to a packed banquet hall.
Established in 2014 through this $25 million grant, the UNCF/Koch Scholars Program awards up to $20,000 in scholarships over four years to African-American high-school seniors interested in entrepreneurship, innovation and economics. The program expects to welcome more than 160 UNCF/Koch Scholars as of this year.
Through the UNCF, scholars are also provided opportunities for internships and fellowships, mentorship and summer enrichment. It’s all part of the UNCF’s mission to prepare students “for rich, intellectual lives, competitive and fulfilling careers, engaged citizenship and service to our nation.” And that’s precisely where the UNCF and Koch intersect.
“Our shared vision was then and remains today to support students and faculty in their exploration of how Principled Entrepreneurship, the economic way of thinking and innovation improve well-being for individuals, communities and society,” said Meredith Olson, vice president of public affairs for Koch Industries.
Scholarship programs like the UNCF/Koch Scholars Program help remove monetary barriers to higher education that keep many from pursuing their dreams. But it’s more than just a scholarship program – the UNCF/Koch Scholars Program also provides for numerous campus-based opportunities including a speaker series, reading groups, debates and symposia.
“This program is really about providing students with a rich and intellectually stimulating college experience, helping develop the mindset of a principled entrepreneur rooted in the values of respect, humility, integrity and courage,” said Olson.
The impact of the program was really impressed upon the crowd at Thursday’s luncheon as Julian Jones and Hunter Haymore – both award recipients – took to the stage and shared their personal experiences, as well as how they’ve both benefitted directly. Jones, a straight-A student and program alum whose first two attempts at college didn’t take, almost missed applying entirely.
“The deadline was two days approaching, but I applied anyway,” he said. “I was accepted, and it changed my life forever. Being in this program helped me pay my tuition, but most importantly, it shifted the trajectory of my life. (It) taught me how to develop and apply the entrepreneurial mindset so that I could improve my life and enhance my community.”
And Haymore, a sophomore at Spelman College, one of the 37 historically black colleges and universities supported by UNCF, shared her story of overcoming sickle cell anemia and chemotherapy-induced hair loss to now focus on helping others facing the same adversity.
“My long-term goal is to become a social entrepreneur,” she said. “I plan on opening a business that will empower and encourage young women like myself. I want to donate wigs to children in hospitals who have gone through or are going through a circumstance that I went through. I want to help people who have lost their hair, but not their hope.”
For more information about the UNCF/Koch Scholars Program, visit uncfkochscholars.uncf.org.