KCPS Juniors Find the Right Words for A Bright Future

Fifty-six students earn 2020 scholarships from KC Scholars


Kansas City, May 21, 2020:  A day may come when a life is saved because of the work put in by Sofia Murasi on a cold morning this February at East High School.

Sofia is a junior at EHS and one of more than 50 classmates from across Kansas City Public Schools who recently learned that they are earning college scholarships from KC Scholars. For Sofia, and for the many students who come from a similar background, the news suddenly turned her dream of becoming a doctor into an achievable goal.

“This is helping me make my dreams, and mom’s wishes come true! This scholarship will be so important to me because I’ll be able to spend more time studying for classes,” she said. “I’ll have the resources to focus on my schoolwork. During that time, when I might have to work, I’ll be studying instead.”

Sofia knows how to work hard. That was evident on Feb. 25 when she walked on her own initiative into an impromptu clinic set-up in a ground floor corner of East HS to get help with her KC Scholars application essay. She then spent a couple of hours fine-tuning her narrative with the guidance of KCPS staff members who were volunteering their time.

The clinic was just one of several planned and ran at every KCPS high school by district Secondary English Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator Chris Odam. He taught English for many years at Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, and he knows that writing the essay is one of the most intimidating obstacles for many KCPS students when it comes to applying for college scholarships.

Last fall, Mr. Odam conceived of a college essay board comprised of KCPS staff members who would donate their time and expertise to help students perfect their compositions. The idea was to tap into the considerable talent that can be found across Team KCPS.

“For this first year, I’ve helped corral a team of volunteers from the professional development department, human resources, communications, school leadership, and even our grant writer, Barbara Wright, has been helping out,” Mr. Odam said. “It’s a concentrated effort to be here and provide feedback for students at each high school.”

At the East HS clinic, students were paired with adults, and they combed through the scholarship essays. In addition to basic proofreading and structure suggestions, the volunteers often found themselves encouraging the students to share stories about the challenges they had overcome. Sofia, for example, said that she had to bypass an initial reluctance to write about her experience as a refugee who moved with her family to Kansas City in 2018.

One of the goals of the essay board is to help students like Sofia to understand that the challenges they have overcome are points of pride and strength, Mr. Odam said. These experiences should be celebrated.

“This is probably one of the most rewarding parts of this is seeing how earnest they are in their writing,” Mr. Odam said. “They’re almost shy about telling the truth of what they’ve overcome. It’s exciting to give somebody a little nudge and help them realize that this is a time when people will honor that and respect that even more than you might realize.”

This year, 56 KCPS juniors were awarded college scholarships through KC Scholars. These scholarships are worth up to $10,000 per academic year, renewable for up to five years, for students who attend one of the 17 colleges and universities that are part of the non-profit organization’s consortium.

Sofia was transparent about the value of the scholarship and what it will mean for her future. Her goal is to become a dermatologist and to help people who suffer from rare and disabling skin disorders. She credited her friends, teachers and support staff at EHS for getting her to this point.

“This scholarship is important to me for a lot of reasons, but the money is the most important, because it’s nice to not have to worry about that as much,” she said. “I believe that I got this scholarship because of all the support I have here at East. I do feel like we get a lot of support here, yes. I get it from teachers, friends, principals. We’re surrounded by it.”

Visit www.KCPublicSchools.org/East to learn more about East High School. Visit kcscholars.org to learn more about KC Scholars.

2020 Kansas City Public Schools KC Scholars Scholarship Winners

  • Makene Abwe, East High School
  • Nejmadin Ahmed, East High School
  • Sara Al-Hachami, Northeast High School
  • Anirudh Atluri, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Malcolm Cook, Northeast High School
  • Raissa Dodjim, Northeast High School
  • Story Downing, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Nataiya Evans, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Guadalupe Garcia, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Jorge Gonzalez, East High School
  • Carmen Gudino, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Balkis Hassan, East High School
  • Shawntearia Hunt, Central High School
  • Ja’Keya Jackson, Southeast High School
  • Malena Juarez, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Anna Kasindi, East High School
  • Shfeo Lar, Northeast High School
  • Jesse Le, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Autumn Lewetzow, Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
  • Alexander Lewis, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Tamareon Lones, Southeast High School
  • Makayla Long, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Chandler Lopez, Northeast High School
  • Jonpaul Marshall, East High School
  • Amina Massey, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Lorraine Mccann, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Happy Melly, East High School
  • Jose Menendez, Northeast High School
  • Hodo Mohamed, East High School
  • Brianna Monroe, Central High School
  • Destine Monroe, Central High School
  • Anthony Muniz, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Chadia Mupenda, East High School
  • Sofia Murasi, East High School
  • Noreau Murray, Southeast High School
  • Yan Tar Na Oo, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Corey Porter, Central High School
  • Jonisha Price, Central High School
  • Jaqueline Recinos, Southeast High School
  • Gabriel Reed, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Ana Reyes-Mendoza, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Daniel Rodriguez, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Andrea Scales, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Kemiyah Sims, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Damion Singhakhoune, East High School
  • Kelis Smith, Central High School
  • Lamiya Starr, Southeast High School
  • Hayley Stock, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Paige Tapia, Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
  • Ian Todt, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy
  • Safi Veronique, East High School
  • Yepheng Vue, East High School
  • Mecca Walker, East High School
  • Luvenia Wedlow, Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
  • Zackariah Wheatley, East High School
  • Ronald Woods, Northeast High School