By Lois Furry
When Kimberly Henderson, ’98, went to MSU, she struggled to find funding and had to work two or three jobs. She made a promise to herself that once she graduated she’d find a way to help future Spartans.
Through MSU Black Alumni (MSUBA), an alumni interest group affiliated with the MSU Alumni Association, she has found a way to keep her promise. During The Campaign for MSU, the group set and achieved their goal to grow their scholarship endowments to $1 million. Kimberly serves as the scholarship co-chairperson, a job that involves helping future Spartans in a big way.
This year was the group’s biggest year ever with 56 students receiving assistance from the MSUBA. “When I first started we gave out 10 or 12 scholarships, but now since we have a million-dollar-plus endowment, it’s an honor to be able to grant that type of money to students,” says Kimberly.
Amanda Peoples, a senior from Detroit, remembers well the strain of applying for scholarships and hoping for positive answers when she was in high school. Receiving assistance from the MSUBA has been life-changing, she says. “Just getting a scholarship made me feel more confident and happy that college can somehow be taken care of and it would be less of a burden to my parents,” she says.
Every student who receives an MSUBA scholarship receives more than just financial assistance. The students meet once each semester with MSUBA leaders who offer support and advice.
They couldn’t have a more dynamic and committed set of coaches than Kimberly and Jennifer Wallace, ’86, Kimberly’s counterpart on the MSUBA scholarship committee.
“Our goal is not only to get them in, but to get them out with a couple of mortarboards,” says Jennifer. “They know they are not here alone, we are not going to let them fall between the cracks.”
Senior Jensine Leung says she is grateful for the financial assistance she received from MSUBA including some extra funding which made her dream of a Study Abroad experience possible. But the personal support has also been a big help to her. “It gave me a lot of confidence just to know that these people are backing me up and they’re there for me,” Jensine says.
Fellow scholarship recipient Antonio Evans, a junior from Farmington, agrees.
“I think the MSUBA does a great job of supporting, I think that not only do they give out financial support, but they give out emotional support, they give out educational support, they make sure that your whole college experience is something to remember.”
The MSUBA also works to build the next generation of mentors and donors. Community service is required for all scholarship recipients.
“Through their giving I’ve realized how important it is to give back to the community,” says Jensine.
The connection with MSUBA doesn’t end with graduation. Graduates receive a complimentary membership in the MSUBA and are encouraged to be active in the group, and especially with ongoing fundraising efforts to provide more scholarships.
Byron Hester, a junior from Lansing, already sees the value of staying engaged with MSU and the MSUBA. “I realized this is a huge organization,” he says. “They actually stay around and help you throughout your higher education career, help you get jobs…it’s a networking thing too.”
He says he definitely plans on joining the MSUBA and donating to the scholarship funds in the future.
That’s exactly what Jennifer Wallace loves to hear. “We want them to come, because we’re building our future,” she says. “They’re our growth, they’re our future, so we have to teach them how to grow and teach them how to share.”
Amanda Peoples seems to have learned the lesson. She says, “It definitely will be important to me to give back because I feel that young people are the future and they all have potential. If you just help them out, they can get to wherever they want to go. More than likely I will be donating to MSU and MSUBA.”
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