Editor’s note: This post was republished with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s EdInsight blog.
The Kauffman Foundation provides financial support for Missouri Business Alert.
Ten years ago I was given the opportunity to become a part of Ewing Kauffman’s legacy. As a 15-year-old girl rooted in the inner city, I did not yet know how much that commitment would change the fabric of my life. However, I understood that it was something to be cherished. My mother made it clear to me during the application process that being a Kauffman Scholar was a privilege and ultimately my ticket to college. Through her support and lectures of love, I began to understand the wise saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
High school was a battlefield. I was fighting to survive the stereotypes that plagued my community and my desire to go to college grew in the face of adversity. College equaled utopia in my mind. With the support of the Kauffman Scholars staff and Mr. K’s generous financial investment, I made it to college. After five long years, I found myself walking across the stage of the 2014 Fort Hays State University commencement ceremony. I beamed with pride in my Kauffman Scholars stole and became overwhelmingly grateful for the gift Mr. K gave me.
In that moment, I went from Scholar to alumna and accepted my transition into the Kauffman Scholars Alumni Association. After graduation, I began my journey as a Legacy Intern. It was in this role and during this season of my life that I would come to understand the depth of Mr. K’s gift. Ten days after my college graduation and seven days before my internship began, I experienced my greatest tragedy to date. In the process of giving birth to my daughter, I was informed that she no longer had a heartbeat.
Despite many objections from my immediate family, I laid my daughter to rest on Saturday and reported to the Kauffman Foundation on Monday to fulfill my commitment as a Legacy Intern. Although it sounds insane, it was the right decision for me. Why? Kauffman Scholars and the Legacy Internship represented hope. In a time my life made little sense, I needed hope.
Every day on my drive to the Kauffman Foundation, I cried for my daughter and I questioned her fate, but when I walked through the front doors I was restored. During those eight hours of work, my life made sense. I was contributing to something greater than myself and that was significant to my healing journey.
As a Legacy Intern, I discovered and adopted a truth that belonged to Mr. Kauffman, “I think the greatest satisfaction I have had, personally, is helping others, doing something that either inspires them or aids them to develop themselves in their future lives so they’ll not only be a better person but be a better productive citizen of the United States.”
With the profound impact Mr. K’s legacy had on me, I was eager to serve in any capacity possible. My next opportunity would come as an Alumni Ambassador for the Kauffman Scholars Alumni Association. I was passionate about rallying my fellow alumni to acknowledge the individual impact Mr. K’s investment had on them and to pay it forward however they could.
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of such an incredible man’s birthday, I am overcome with joy from my privilege to watch the momentum build inside the walls of the Kauffman Foundation. For me, Mr. Kauffman’s gift began as a financial investment. His financial investment grew into a gift of hope. His gift of hope grew into a gift of power. I am a supreme reflection of Mr. Kauffman’s philosophy that if you “give [youth] hope for the future, if you let them know that somebody cares about them, you’ll be surprised at what they can achieve.”
I have come full circle in the name of Ewing Kauffman. I consider it a great honor to serve as a Kauffman Scholars associate and share Mr. K’s gift with my scholars, my family and my community.
Ashley Anderson is a postsecondary advisor for Kauffman Scholars, Inc. As an advisor, Anderson is responsible for guiding and supporting the academic, social and emotional growth of students in the KSI program toward the goal of post-secondary success.