HDF breaks scholarship fund records as it gathers to honor recipients

416 students picked from 740 applicants fund raises $900K

These HDF’s college bound recipients and their parents couldn’t be happier knowing that this community has raised thousands of dollars for them to continue their college education.

The Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund (HDF) administrators gathered last week with its 2022 HDF scholarship fund recipients as the organization announced another record-breaking year of funding the dreams of Hispanic students headed to college.

Meeting in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HDF held an outdoor ceremony at Union Station last week, where it was announced that a record 416 students received a record $900,000 in scholarship funds. More than 740 students applied for funds this year.

“Just three years ago we were at 330 (recipients), so that’s a pretty significant increase,” said John Kearney, executive director of HDF, “and we’re getting closer to that $1 million dollar mark.”

Kearney explained that the $900,000 raised came from a combination of donations from individuals, small businesses and larger corporations the colleges and universities with whom the HDF scholarship fund partners then match the amount raised. So, Kearney said, donors gave a little less than $500,000 this year, and their partner colleges matched that dollar amount, bringing the total to $900,000. The scholarships are especially helpful to first-generation college students, who make up 80 percent of the fund’s recipients.

Alejandra Perez, director of the HDF’s scholarship program, said that a majority of the funds raised come in during the organization’s annual Cambio Para Cambio (“Change For Change”) fundraising campaign.

“This is truly a community grassroots effort,” Perez told KC Hispanic News. “We have smaller donations all the way up to corporations that give us grants. The Cambio Para Cambio campaign allows colleges to match those donations, so that’s what allows us to award so many scholarships.”

HDF’s leaders agree that as Kansas City’s Hispanic population continues to climb, demand for the scholarships also increases, as evident in the number of applicants in recent years.

“There’s always a growing need,” said Ramon Murguia, chairman of the HDF board. “When you look at the demographics, that’s going to put more pressure on us to raise dollars.”

And although the amount of money raised continues to break records year after year, there are still applicants who must receive the disappointing news that they weren’t selected, Perez notes.

“The hardest part about my job is sending out those letters to the students who aren’t selected,” she said. “We have so many deserving students. My heart breaks when I have to send out those denial letters to deserving students.”

Still, Kearney adds, those students who are selected as recipients have their lives changed by the generosity of donors and area colleges.

“(The success of the scholarship program) speaks to the resilience of our community and to donors’ commitment of higher education as a vehicle to advance our scholars’ and families’ lives,” Kearney said. “Our students get that reassurance that our community believes in them.”

HDF is already gearing up for the next batch of scholarship recipients with its Family College Prep program, in which scholarship fund representatives will partner with 10 of the largest Hispanic-serving high schools in the area.

“We’re installing advisers there to help students access KC Scholars, FAFSA, and private scholarships,” Kearney explained. “So, we’re trying to increase our outreach and our impact.”

Two of the 2022 scholarship recipients expressed their excitement with being selected, with Reynaldo Lopez saying, he felt “ecstatic.”

“This means a lot. It’s hard to get money nowadays,” said Lopez, a two-time recipient majoring in exercise science. “Scholarships like these give me the opportunity to focus on my schoolwork and not worry about where the money will come from.”

Daisy Garcia Montoya will use the scholarship she received to go back to UMKC and earn her master’s degree in college administration she previously graduated from UMKC with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

“I feel honored to have this opportunity to be around all of this Latino excellence, and inspired to know we’re all doing things to better our community,” said Garcia Montoya, a first-generation college student. “The future is right here.”