Mr. Johnson had a deep love for education. And while he didn’t provide specific stipulations regarding how the Foundation distribute his wealth, he did have a last wish – to develop a scholarship program for students at Cook County High School (CCHS), his alma matter.
Two years after Mr. Johnson’s passing, the Lloyd K. Johnson Post-Secondary Scholarship Program was established, and since that time the Foundation has funded over 60 CCHS graduates to attend Lake Superior College and Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College. The scholarship covers full tuition, books and fees, as well as provides a stipend for basic school supplies. And it’s also not your typical scholarship program.
So often scholarships are for the top-ranking students in academics, athletics, or music – but we decided to take a different road. Our program seeks to make the greatest impact by helping those who need it most – whether it be barriers of financing, self-belief, academics, or otherwise.
The vast majority of our students are the first in their families to go to college and often not qualifying for other scholarship programs or having access to traditional financial supports. Many students have overcome significant challenges in their personal, family, and social lives, and so many speak of their wish to be an example for others – especially their younger siblings.
“Receiving the scholarship in high school set me on the right path in life, when I easily could have gone another, not good way.”
– LKJ Post-Secondary Scholarship Recipient
Just as Mr. Johnson did, the Foundation Board and staff believe that a college education can change the trajectory of a student’s life, and we believe it’s one of the best investments we can make. We believe in second chances and opening doors. We believe that with the right support, students can and will succeed. And because of that, we staff a dedicated support position to assist our students.
Our staff seeks to walk alongside our students, addressing all the challenges this transition so often yields. Things like budgeting and applying for financial aid; finding housing and learning bus schedules; figuring out part-time jobs and campus resources; connecting with personal and academic counseling; discussing needs and expectations with professors and college staff; navigating family, social and health issues; and learning a new, much bigger city. Through it all, we seek to provide consistent support, guidance, resources and planning; and we have built-in systems to give students second and third chances when things don’t go as initially planned.
We’re also always seeking ways to improve. This past year we added a dedicated cell phone so students can text us. We initiated surveys for incoming students, current students and alumni; and we’re using the results to shape the program. We’re also piloting a new student campus tour, lunch and Q&A session with alumni, as well as a financial workshop to teach budgeting skills, what it means to build healthy credit, and what to watch for with predatory products.
While we believe deeply in our model and our investments, we also believe that success has many definitions. We have many students graduate with AA degrees, diplomas, certifications – and we have many who decide college isn’t for them. We have a few that we never hear from again, and a few that go on for Ph.D.s. What makes us truly different, is that we don’t solely define success as “graduating”. We intentionally look for ways in which students can learn, discover, and grow throughout their journey – no matter what that may look like. And we seek to support them through it all.
This year, we’re proud to announce:
4 Graduates: Bethany Derscheid, Alex Slanga, Hannah Toftey, Damian Zimmer
5 Renewal Awardees: Kya Brazell, Emery Brown, Joe James, Finn Garry, Nina Woerheide
1 Second Renewal Awardee: Sarah Toftey
6 New Awardees: Dyami Blackwell, Jaymee Dossey, Sophie Eliasen, Luke Johnson, Andrea Larsen, Cecilia Swader