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Finnup scholarships enhance opportunities for southwest Kansas students

From Bell Tower - 2023
By Annie Flachsbarth

In 1879, German furniture manufacturer Frederick Finnup ventured west from Ohio and instantly fell in love with the vast prairie of southwest Kansas. Determined to be part of a proposed new settlement, he eagerly obtained two of the first six deeds issued in what would eventually become Garden City. From that point forward, the Finnups became synonymous with the region, as the founding family of Garden City and champions of southwest Kansas.

Nearly a hundred years later, in 1977 Frederick’s descendants established the Finnup Foundation Family Trust to ensure Garden City’s and southwest Kansas’ continuing prosperity and development. The foundation has a wide range of programs and activities, and one of its priorities is helping southwest Kansas students earn college degrees. This has included, for the past 30 years, a robust scholarship program at Washburn University which has created a pipeline for students from southwest Kansas to come to Topeka to pursue their educations. Students like Kira Roth.

Two students standing outside on the Washburn campus

(Current Finnup scholars Kira Roth and Kara Brakey. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

Chance of a Lifetime

Roth, a freshman from Garden City, always knew college was on her roadmap. However, as the oldest of five children and first in the family to go to college, the stakes for her success are high.

“Growing up, I was always told to give my siblings somebody to look up to,” Roth said. “Yes, I’m doing this for myself, but I’m also doing it so that my little brother  –  who’s in first grade this year  –  sees it and says, ‘Hey, Kira went to college. I want to do that, too.’ The Finnup Scholarship took away the stress of how I would make that happen.”

So Washburn and Finnup are busy spreading the word about this incredible opportunity for students from the southwest part of the state, with events like a gathering this spring in Garden City where prospective local students can learn more about Washburn and the Finnup Foundation’s scholarships. Meeting with Washburn staff and admissions counselors and finding our that high school students from the area with a GPA of 2.0 or higher who come to Washburn can receive as much as $5,000 a year, or $20,000 total, in additional financial aid, is a great selling point, and can be a difference-maker in a lot of people’s college decision.

Alan Bearman, vice president for strategic enrollment management and dean of student success and libraries, has lauded this program as key to Washburn’s recruitment.

“It is a unique opportunity for students in southwest Kansas and we want to make sure it impacts the lives of as many students as possible,” he said. “We want these students on our campus next fall and walking across our commencement stage in the years to come.”

Even better, the Finnup Scholarship is now stackable with Washburn’s new academic scholarship plan, meaning a student with a 4.0 high school GPA will receive a full tuition award. Scholarship recipients also have the incredible opportunity to study abroad with a Finnup Foundation-funded program  –  making the scholarship even more desirable, and part of a holistic transformative experience.

The Finnup Community

Finnup Scholarships are also helping to make Washburn even more attractive to prospective southwest Kansas students with a two-week residential program for new students called the Finnup Scholars Academy. As part of this program, Finnup students move into Washburn’s Living Learning Center residence hall earlier than other students, which helps them acclimate to campus life and their new city before school starts.

Kara Brakey, a freshman biology major from Spearville, Kansas, toured several college campuses in the region, but ultimately chose Washburn because of this sense of belonging.

“The D1 schools felt so big and overwhelming. But Washburn wasn’t like that,” Brakey said. “I come from a really, really small town, so it was a big change for me. By moving in early, we got to know each other, so even before you start classes, you have some ready-made friends, your fellow Finnup scholars, which is so helpful for settling in and feeling like you belong.”

“Growing up in Garden City, it was very diverse, but there was always a sense of community,” Roth shared. “I was sort of nervous coming to Topeka because it always had a bigger feel. But I found that campus is just like its own little community. It reminds me a little bit of home.”

President Mazachek greeting a family at an event

(President JuliAnn Mazachek greets prospective students and families at a Finnup Foundation and Washburn University event this April in Garden City. Photo by Josh Rouse)

Making their Mark

Riding the waves of aspiration  –  and with the help of Finnup Scholarships  –  these impressive new students found the perfect environment in Washburn University to spread their wings and grow.

Brakey aims to attend medical school after obtaining her undergraduate degree. She hopes to become an orthopedic surgeon one day.

“Washburn’s biology program is hard, but it’s one of the top schools to help kids get into med school because it’s so tough,” Brakey said. “I like how collaborative Washburn professors are and how willing they are to help. You can tell that they care.”

Roth, who hopes to go on to law school, is fueled by a passion to create change for the better.

“I want to make a positive impact on people’s lives. It’s interesting to see the discrepancies in justice and that it can destroy someone’s life if we don’t do it right,” Roth said. “If I can at least make a little change in someone’s life  –  for the better  –  that’s what I want to do.”

Many of these students who come to Washburn to earn their degrees will return to southwest Kansas to make their own marks on the region and help it continue to grow and prosper. In that way, more than 140 years later, Frederick Finnup’s legacy lives on, and, with Washburn’s help, the Finnup family continues providing for a thriving and educated southwest Kansas.

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483