Four more District 191 students have the door to a college education opened to them, thanks to the “No Doors Closed” scholarships provided by generous donations from Kevin and Greta Warren.
The recipients will receive $5,000 each year for four years to cover tuition and other costs to earn an undergraduate degree at a college or university. This is the third year that the Warrens have provided the scholarships.
This year’s scholarship winners are Burnsville High School seniors Justin Gitonga, Louis Ikponmwosa, Brikty Tilahun and Liliana Valverde Ortiz.
Kevin Warren, who is an attorney and the chief operating officer of the Minnesota Vikings, and Greta Warren, who is a first generation college graduate, said their passion for education and desire to pay forward their own good fortune are driving factors for providing the scholarships.
At the awards presentation, Kevin shared that it’s also about the example set by his mother, a librarian who provided small scholarships of $25 to $50 to help students afford their education. He hadn’t thought that much about it until, after his mother passed away, one of her scholarship recipients said how the small gift had opened doors and changed his life.
“So much of what we do is aimed at removing barriers for students so they can prepare for success in their futures, but the cost of a college education is one barrier we can’t control,” said Dr. Jenna Mitchler, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. “For many students, this support makes all the difference, and for that, we are incredibly grateful.”
Students at Burnsville High School and Burnsville Alternative High School in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and College Possible college readiness programs were eligible to apply by filling out applications that included essays about obstacles they’d overcome, their goals for community involvement and their plans for the future. Previous scholarship winners, now finishing their sophomore year in college, helped read and evaluate the applications.
In addition to their essays, students were evaluated on leadership, community participation, volunteer service and participation in sports or the arts. They had to meet a certain grade point average, be members of underserved or underrepresented groups on college campuses, and show desire and determination to succeed.
The Warrens plan to continue awarding scholarships annually until a total of 16 students are in the program on a rolling basis.