We are honored to feature The Ellis Foundation, a Fort Scott, Kansas-based 501 (c)(3) public charity, in our Spotlight article this quarter. Now in its fourteenth year, The Ellis Foundation was founded in 1998 by Danny and Willa Ellis as a way to honor the contributions and memory of their daughter, Kathy Lyn Ellis Adriance, following her death from breast cancer. Kathy Lyn was a graduate of Kansas University and a beloved high school English teacher at the time of her death.
The Ellis Foundation’s mission is to provide access to higher education for high school graduates with limited financial resources. The Ellis Foundation partners with individuals, corporations, other foundations, and institutions in order to accomplish this admirable mission. The Ellis Foundation, together with its partners, provides educational support to prepare capable students to become America’s future leaders.
To date, The Ellis Foundation and its partners have committed over $14,000,000 towards education . Much of this money has come in the form of four-year scholarships awarded to students pursuing higher education. The Ellis Foundation provides each scholarship recipient with up to $8,000 in funds ($1 ,000 per semester for eight consecutive semesters). A vast majority of the scholarship recipients come from low- to middle-income families who are often not able to contribute much, if at all, to the cost of their child’s college education . A scholarship from The Ellis Foundation is often the difference between a student attending college or not.
While there are many organizations throughout the United States offering college scholarships, The Ellis Foundation is unique in a number of important ways. First, Chris Ellis, the Executive Director of The Ellis Foundation, and his wife Cathy, personally interview every student who applies for a scholarship. This is a massive undertaking – in 2011 alone, 175 new scholarships were awarded from over 250 interviews! Fortunately, they have the help of numerous high school guidance counselors in over one hundred high schools spread across seven-teen states. These guidance counselors help The Ellis Foundation identify deserving high school students with financial needs who also have the desire and ability to become future leaders and change their world. Second, all of the money donated by The Ellis Foundation Partners (individual donors and corporate sponsors) is spent on education. Not one cent of donated money goes towards paying any administrative expenses or salaries associated with The Ellis Foundation. Lastly, all of the money paid out each year in scholarships goes directly to the educational institutions the students attend. The money covers only the student’s educational expenses. The money is never sent directly to any student or family and may not be used for anything other than the cost of attending college.
Probably the most unique thing about The Ellis Foundation scholarship program, however, is the guidance and mentoring each of The Ellis Foundation Scholars receives before, during and even after their college years. During the college application process, scholarship recipients receive college guidance assistance to help them identify colleges that are a good fit for them.
After matriculating, all scholarship recipients are given on-campus mentors who help the students adjust to college life and provide educational and even career guidance. Oftentimes, The Ellis Foundation Scholars are the first in their family to attend college. The assistance of a knowledgeable mentor can make the transition to college much less intimidating or overwhelming. The Ellis Foundation also tracks every scholarship recipient’s progress and grades and holds each student accountable for their own academic performance.
The Ellis Foundation aims to guide students towards college success and degree completion. The Foundation’s longer-term vision is to help produce young adults who are responsible, self-supporting, productive, and contributing to the greater good. The Ellis Foundation’s rigor and methods are working! Scholarship recipients graduate from college at a rate that is double the national average. Also, many of these graduates complete college on time in four years- an amazing achievement given that on average U.S. colleges and universities only graduate about half of those who start as freshmen and it takes them six years to do so. As an added benefit, many corporate scholarship sponsors have been impressed with the quality of the scholarship recipients. As a result, they are now offering internships, job shadowing opportunities, and even full-time employment to The Ellis Foundation Scholars.
As The Ellis Foundation looks ahead, it continues to expand its reach and help more students. In the last year, the Foundat ion added seventeen more colleges and eight more high schools to its list of partnering institutions. The Foundation also continues to add to its list of corporate and individual donors and sponsors. The Foundation soon hopes to be able to provide scholarships to 1,000 college students per year.
If you would like to learn more about The Ellis Foundation, please visit their website at www.theellisfoundation.org. You can also call Chris Ellis at 913-244-4847 (cell) or 620-223-2232 (office), or you can email Chris as firstname.lastname@example.org.