The Future of Us is a local nonprofit organization providing character-based scholarships to high school seniors from underfunded and under-acknowledged communities. Three Kansas City, Mo. Ruskin High School graduates who went on to graduate college quickly realized opportunities are not equal and access is not unbiased.
In March 2020, just two months after brainstorming how to fix this problem, the scholarship fund for underprivileged youth was created and built on the belief of investing in merits, not metrics. CEO Brenan Latimer and COO Precious Awopetu are driven by their passion to give back to their communities.
“After having gone through college, we realized that students from more affluent communities had a much different perspective on attending college than the majority of our classmates,” Latimer says. “Being from a high school that is underfunded, we experienced a lack of collegiate resources and support, and we understand how impactful an organization like The Future of Us can be.”
The process for choosing a recipient is unlike other scholarships.
“Rather than judging students by their GPA, ACT score or other on-paper statistics that try to quantify how good of a candidate they are, we consider the actual person we are investing in. We like our awardees to be motivated, kind, charitable, hardworking, humble, honest, creative and passionate. Applicants submit a work that they feel most effectively conveys a message of their choosing—this can be a response to one (or more) of the prompts that we provide, or the topic can be chosen by the students themselves. They can choose to respond with a full-length essay or submit a non-traditional body of work (a short creative story, a painting, a video, etc.) as long as they provide a written work to supplement their creative one explaining their motivation, the significance of their submission, the impact or other important details surrounding their work.
“We then choose students to move on to an interview round. When they meet with us, we have a conversation to learn more about them and they get to learn more about us. Prior to final selection, we may or may not perform a reference check with their school administration or teachers depending on how passionately we feel about our candidates, and then we choose a winner.”
Their very first winner aspires to receive a degree in psychology followed by law school.
“Myati Vonziah is a first generation Ghanaian-American who’s worked very hard to become a first generation college student as well. In high school, she was in debate, played soccer, danced and was in band. She’s very community oriented, frequently volunteering her time at Harvesters. She values a strong self-identity, as she is very invested in her own culture, and she encourages everyone to “be yourself, be yourself, be yourself.” A proverb she was often told by her mother while she was growing up that has stuck with her into young adulthood is “a child who can’t hear can feel.” As she looks toward college, she is both motivated and nervous yet excited to meet new people. She wants to work toward obtaining a degree in psychology and then go to law school.”
The Future of Us plans on expanding their footprint within the community.
“We want to work more closely with high school students as they prepare for college. We plan to have panels and discussions led by college students and community professionals for high school students to attend and ask questions. We plan to have fundraisers as well as community outreach and involvement events. We want to grow and be able to help as many students as we can. We envision a network of former students helping current students, and current students helping future students—a community investing in itself.
“We look toward our communities to help guide, encourage and inspire students. There will be opportunities for people to donate their time to talk to students, lend us their expertise to help advise students, or just be a connection in a student’s professional network. Of course, donations are always appreciated. You can do this through the donation tab on our website.”
For more information on how to get involved and donate, visit thefouscholarship.com.