Kimberley L. Martin is the founder of the KLM Scholarship Foundation, a non-profit organization created to assist Virginia college students with book scholarships. Her story, and KLM’s mission are synonymous with stories told by successful HBCU alumni around the world.
Martin spoke with the Digest recently to discuss her background, what HBCUs can do to receive more public support, and the future goals of the KLM Foundation.
What motivated you to start this kind of program, not just for HBCU students, but for students throughout the state?
I was motivated to start a book scholarship program for several reasons:
The first reason is I whole-heartedly believe in the value of higher education and the intrinsic rewards that accompany it. My belief is higher education exposes one to new concepts, serves as the preparatory bridge for any given profession, and has the potential to increases one’s earning potential.
The second reason I started the program is because of the rising cost of a college education. Escalating cost make it virtually impossible for most students to pay all the required fees out-of-pocket. The cost of textbooks alone for a year of college can easily surpass $1,000.00 depending upon the school and the curriculum.
The third reason for starting the program is directly tied to the philanthropic legacy passed along by my maternal great-grandmother, Florence Brickhouse Bowser. She spent tireless hours spearheading various fundraisers to secure monies that were matched by the state of Virginia and the Rosenwald Rural School Building Program. The funds were used to build the Florence Graded School, the first Virginia-based Rosenwald School specifically built for African-Americans in Suffolk, Virginia (then Nansemond County) during 1920. The City of Suffolk erected a new building during 1963. That building bears her name to this day and is called the Florence Bowser Elementary School.
Last, but not least, when I was considering how I would give back to my undergraduate alma mater and the community, there weren’t any other programs within the Commonwealth of Virginia that focused solely on awarding book scholarships. I saw this gap as an exciting way to lend a hand to my home state.
Talk about your experience as a college student, and how, if at all, scholarship assistance made your process easier to navigate.
I obtained my undergraduate degree from Virginia State University (VSU). An educational legacy passed along by my maternal great-grandmother, grandmother, grandfather and great-aunt. During my tenure at VSU, I depended heavily upon student loans and the generosity of my family to pay for my college education. At times, the mounting debt was very discouraging and could have served as a deterrent for completing my degree. By the grace of God I persevered and decided very early on that I would do my part to assist VSU students to pay for their education by providing scholarships. We’ve awarded book scholarships for VSU students since 2003. Three students were awarded a total of $3,000.00 ($1,000.00 each) this school year alone.
HBCU alumni are aware that we need to give back to ensure that students can attend school, but its often lost that enrollment is much more than just paying tuition. How can corporations and individuals best be targeted to understand the need for giving beyond a student having the ability to enroll?
HBCUs should clearly communicate their support needs and consistently establish partnerships with for-profit organizations that directly and indirectly benefit from HBCU-centric spending habits. If possible, they should obtain concrete data that outlines the spending power of their student body and how those dollars are being spent before negotiating a win-win corporate partnership.
As far as obtaining general public support is concerned, the same rule applies, HBCUs should communicate, communicate, communicate their vision and support needs. They should consistently establish partnerships with non-profit organizations with the same or similar objectives, as well as religious and alumni Greek organizations to reach their support goals.
In order to gain the needed support, the first and most critical step for HBCUs is to share their vision and specific needs with their target audience. At the end of the day, HBCU development efforts should continually drive home the point that in order to thrive, not just survive, the school will need support from alumni, corporations, and the community-at-large.
Everyone will need to do their part to ensure HBCUs remain open, productive and competitive in the higher education world. The good news is there are so many ways to show support. Giving options include outright gifts, in-kind gifts, endowments, securities gifts, legacy gifts, and real estate gifts just to name a few. There are many other avenues; so potential donors should contact their school of choice to obtain a giving options listing.
Approximately how many students has your foundation been able to assist, and what has been their feedback or feedback from their institutions?
Since its inception, The KLM Scholarship Foundation has awarded forty (40) book scholarships. Currently, we are averaging five (5) scholarship awards per school year. Fifteen (15) scholarship winners were chosen for 2010-2011. Awards ranged from $625.00 to $1,000.00 per student. Each student displayed remarkable academic achievement, extra-curricular participation and community service, as well as unmatched leadership abilities. The selected students are as follows:
- Alicia Austin, Old Dominion University
- Alexcia Cleveland, William & Mary College
- Christina Garland, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Reshawn Garnett, Virginia State University
- Terrawn Garnett, Virginia State University
- Kendrick Goode, Old Dominion University
- Brian Henry, University of Richmond
- Jonneisha Jacobs, Old Dominion University
- Chelsea Jackson, Virginia State University
- Raquel Jefferson, Old Dominion University
- Sara Stone, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Shannon Stone, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Mikala Weston, University of Virginia
- Brittney Whitehead, Old Dominion University
- Bryan Williams, Richard Bland College
Feedback from scholarship recipients and parents has been overwhelmingly positive. They are extremely appreciative and grateful for the financial support we provide. Over and over I’ve heard about the financial challenges they’ve faced and how more programs like ours is needed. The feedback is what continually motivates me and other committed volunteers to do our part to raise funds. Parents believe in our program so much that they volunteer to assist with our fundraising efforts and we are thankful for their help.
Because our program has been so well received, we take our fundraising efforts seriously. Since 2009 we’ve hosted a scholarship fundraiser entitled The Black & White Affair Charity Benefit. Our event will be held Saturday, April 2nd this year at the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Proceeds from the event, as well as general donations, will fund book scholarships for 2011-2012.
What are some of the short and long-term objectives for your foundation?
In the short-term we will continue to promote the value of higher education and provide substantial book scholarships for students attending Virginia-based colleges and universities. Virginia is a great state with great educational choices and there is a grand opportunity to provide financial assistance to students seeking a quality education.
Over time I see the organization continuing to partner with corporations, other non-profits and the community-at-large reinforcing our motto, “Together, we make education affordable.” I predict that we will continue to provide book scholarships as well as college prep seminars and career counseling services in the future. Those programs will be run by volunteers and paid staff. Today, our program is facilitated entirely by a core group of dedicated volunteers who spend days, nights and weekends making things happen. The level of devotion among our volunteers is unmatched. Their enthusiasm motivates me daily. My prayer is that those same volunteers will be around to guide foundation activities in the long-term.