Education empowers us to live lives of purpose, improve our economic status and create opportunities for others. As part of its commitment to ensuring that every student has access to these fundamentals, KZCF’s general scholarship application connects students to more than 50 funding opportunities. By establishing these connections, we are able to support students as they create new pathways to success.

Scholarships Manager Meredith Bradford said, “We are constantly seeking to identify what could most help students in applying. Helping them write an essay is at the top of the list.” It was this call to action that inspired Bradford to connect with Dr. Kandace Lavender, executive director of Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK); Dr. Jonathan Bush, professor of English at Western Michigan University (WMU); and Trenae Dunigan, one of the coaches of Promise Pathway. Together, they designed an essay writing workshop series for high school students looking to apply for scholarships. “There are youth in this community whose parents can afford to hire a tutor, and not all students have that same privilege,” Dr. Lavender said.

RAWK’s mission to celebrate and amplify youth voices helps students without access to these privileges explore their own experiences.

“Our job is to create a space where they feel comfortable and courageous enough to tell their story,” Dr. Lavender said.

- Dr. Kandace Lavender, Executive Director, RAWK

Comfort inspires students to have the confidence that their stories are worth sharing. For Dr. Bush, this opportunity gave his teaching students a chance to engage in an exciting and collaborative approach to essay writing. “It gave them the chance to put their ideals into practice and know that this is really their path,” Dr. Bush said. “It also allows WMU to serve our community more deeply.” Identifying the students who would benefit most from this partnership was key to maintaining a commitment to equity. The Kalamazoo Promise was able to make connections, provide space and offer support. For Dunigan, the collaboration offers students a “realistic approach to finding success as they transition out of high school.”

Workshop participant Artazijah Julian was so inspired by the experience she called on RAWK to create a scholarship for Black, African and African American students. It provides incoming first-year students $500 for textbooks. “This program provided me, a woman of color, an opportunity to work with other individuals like me,” Julian said. “Kandace is an exceptional leader and an amazing support system.” This collaborative workshop series makes it possible for everyone to serve more effectively by nurturing relationships and engaging in transformational work, together.

“Relationships drive change and grow communities, and what’s happening here is powerful,” Bradford said.

To read all of the stories from our 2022 Annual Report, click here.

Apply for a scholarship from KZCF today!