The Kenzie program, a Buffalo State College scholarship opportunity, started with four students in 1998. Fifteen years later, it has grown to fund 26 high-achieving, underrepresented minority undergraduate students, emphasizing academic achievement, leadership development, mentoring, and community service, and close interaction between students and mentors. The scholarship includes a $2,400 award renewable each year provided that the student maintains a 3.0 GPA, and also offers a cash bonus of $520 each semester if the scholar makes the dean’s list.
“Mr. Kenzie allows his scholars to reach their educational potential through his generosity and wise guidance,” said Janine Diaz, a Kenzie scholar who graduated in May 2012. Ms. Diaz graduated with a degree in Fashion/Textile Technology and is currently working as an Assistant Designer at Aidan Mattox, an eveningwear line. Several department stores will carry her line of clothing this winter.
Ms. Diaz is one of many Kenzie success stories as the Ross B. Kenzie Family Presidential Scholarship program celebrates its 15 year anniversary. The scholarship program was created and endowed by Mr. Ross B. Kenzie, former Buffalo State Council Chair from 1982 to 1998.
The bulk of the Kenzie scholars major are Childhood Education, Criminal Justice and Sociology majors. And since its establishment, the program has seen more than 70 students graduate and go on to further studies, demonstrating that specialized programs like Kenzie help students graduate on time: at Buffalo State Kenzie scholars have a 78% on-time graduation rate.
The Kenzie program helps the college to recruit highly qualified minority students, and enables them to focus on their studies. “The financial support the Kenzie program provides allowed me to concentrate on my studies rather than worrying about paying for school,” said Kwabena Boakye, of New York City, who came to Buffalo State intending to major in biology with the hope to become a physician someday. It makes it possible for some scholars to finish their undergraduate work with little or no debt, and begin their professional lives without the financial burden faced by a lot of graduates today.
Since graduating, Dr. Boakye earned his medical degree at the University of Buffalo, and served in the United States Army Reserve as a physician. He recently founded a nonprofit organization to improve health in Africa, and there are plans to build a hospital in Africa next summer. Dr. Boakye also travelled to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which left 316,000 people dead and 1.6 million homeless, to provide medical support to the injured.
Kenzie alums are working in many human service professions, and in education as Financial Aid Advisors at CUNY, Program Associates at Junior Achievement of Georgia, and as a Residence Director at SUNY Fredonia. Scholar Cecily Washington is pursuing her Juris doctor (J.D.) at Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas, and 2013 graduate Ahmad Daniel Islam is enrolled at the University at Buffalo Law School.
Divine Sebuharara, a 2012 graduate, summed up the feelings of many Kenzie Scholars. The program’s “genuine care for the well-being of each scholar has made this process just a little bit easier. All of the workshops, lunches, conversations, and picnics we shared are ones that will always be remembered and cherished.”
Written by Muhammed Sumbundu
Big Ideas is the Blog of The State University of New York, published by the Office of New Media.