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On April 26, friends, family and community supporters gathered at The Cowles Center in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, and were greeted by kind faces and a long row of tables. Dressed in black, the tables featured auction items ranging from a signed Vikings jersey to lunch around town. Over 180 attendees mingled, bought raffle tickets and participated in games of chance, all in support of young people pursuing higher education.
The event was aptly named: HOPE Springs Eternal by Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars.
HOPE Springs Eternal serves as the affiliate's largest fundraiser, with 100 percent of proceeds going toward its scholarship fund. The event brought in more than $15,000, exceeding the previous year's highly successful event by more than a third in proceeds. In a city teeming with nonprofits, the evening was even more remarkable given that this year was the second annual event. In fact, just three years prior, Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars had yet to bloom.
Several years ago, a group of friends traveled from the Twin Cities down to Chicago to visit college friends who were in the midst of running their own scholarship program. “They said, ‘Hey, you should really check out our [fundraising] event,’” said Dan Krocak, President of Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars. The enjoyable evening -- and mission behind the event -- didn’t fade once the group of friends arrived back home. “The more we learned, the more we thought we could do this on our own, here,” Dan said. Committed to turn inspiration into reality, that small group of friends formed Minneapolis HOPE (Higher Obligation in Pursuit of Education) Dollars for Scholars in 2012.
Each friend took on the first board roles for the organization, with members utilizing existing connections and skills to get Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars on its feet. As soon as they secured their affiliation with Scholarship America July 2012, they immediately announced an inaugural golf benefit, which provided the first round of funding for student scholarships.
Several months later, the board officially teamed up with Patrick Henry High School in north Minneapolis to begin scholarship administration and disbursement. “We have a working board, and all have strong roles,” Dan said about the board's responsibilities, especially in working together to bring an event like HOPE Springs Eternal to life, from business donations for the raffle to volunteers to run the event, including volunteers from Scholarship America.
With scholarship money secured from early fundraisers, the group had their eyes fixed on their goal: to not only provide scholarships regardless of socioeconomic status, but to also develop those students for future success. “The big, impactful thing we noticed at our friends' scholarship program [in Chicago] was the mentoring,” Dan said. “Scholarships and money only go so far. Mentoring really allows us to give back to students, for them to get that business perspective to successfully develop as future leaders.”
To make a mentoring relationship happen, Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars knew that they would award renewable scholarships to help ensure a student's completion of college, and to maintain that relationship even as students left for campus. Each board member would pair up with a scholarship recipient and guide them through his or her educational journey. They would utilize a contract, as part of scholarship requirements, so that students would remember to stay connected amidst schoolwork and activities.
After a year of operation, Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars offered their first $2,000 renewable scholarships in front of Patrick Henry High School students and administrators, totaling $16,000 for two students. Dan and his fellow board member, Will Haase, would serve as the first mentors to these students throughout their college careers, providing guidance and networking opportunities.
In early June, the board welcomed a third Patrick Henry scholarship recipient. Each student has started asking questions and engaging their mentor, especially about future aspirations. Once they all head to college, the board will “turn on full mentoring,” Dan said. “We look for high-achieving students, who have a desire to do well in classes, but who also want to develop a relationship to better themselves and their futures. We have -- and will – learn from these kids.”
With two full years of achievements, Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars heads into their third year of operation, bringing in more interested people to events. Their relationship with Patrick Henry High School has produced fruitful results, with Dan saying that the school has been very appreciative of the partnership. And the accelerated path to providing scholarships hasn't slowed down, either. The board is looking forward to expanding the scholarship application process and mentoring opportunities to additional high schools in the Minneapolis area. They'll also seek to increase the renewable scholarship amount, all while making the organization a self-living organization to sustain its board -- and students -- for years to come.
To learn more about Minneapolis HOPE Dollars for Scholars, visit their website at minneapolishope.dollarsforscholars.org.
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