Tufts recently announced the “Champions Scholars Fund” scholarship, which aims to increase educational access and equity. The scholarship is a part of the Women Impact Tufts and was endowed by four alums: Kalahn Taylor-Clark (LA’99), Joy Ebanks-Frederick (LA’95), Lanique Eubanks (LA’99) and Danika Tynes (LA’98).
The Champions Scholars Fund is also being matched dollar for dollar by the Schuler Access Initiative, a matching gift challenge created by Jack Schuler (A’62) and his daughter Tanya Schuler Sharman (E’91). The Schuler grant matches up to $25 million raised as aid for low-income students, including students eligible for Federal Pell Grants as well as those with undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status.
Sara Judge, vice president for development at Tufts, oversees all fundraising operations on campus, and helped to raise funds for the Champions Scholars Fund, among other endowed scholarships.
Judge said that the Champions Scholars Fund is just the beginning of WIT’s initiatives.
“We see [the Champions Scholars Fund] as a first initiative, so WIT … has chosen financial aid and has set this goal of engaging 130 women in supporting endowed scholarships,” Judge said. “But once we reach that goal, then the women of Tufts will figure out another goal.”
The Champions Scholars Fund itself started with Taylor-Clark, a member of the board of trustees, when she was appointed to be a co-chair of the WIT initiative.
“Immediately, she realized we needed a different way of raising significant resources to make a lasting impact. She also knew, as a divorced mom to a small child building her career, there was no way to offer enough resources on her own to endow a legacy. She was inspired to send a note to our group of friends to ask if any of our women (alumnae) friends would want to collectively endow a scholarship. The other three then had interest,” Taylor-Clark, Ebanks-Frederick, Eubanks and Tynes wrote in a collective email to the Daily.
Tynes said that for her, the decision to join the scholarship fund was an easy one.
“When I received the invite to participate in this scholarship, it wasn’t a question,” Tynes wrote. “Indeed, the sustainability proposition of the scholarship, the model of using collective strength to provide for [a] better future for more students who need it, and the ability to ‘pay forward’ the same access to education that I had, provided instantly compelling reasons to contribute.”
The alums decided to name the scholarship the “Champions Scholars Fund,” rather than name it after any individual.
“We named it ‘Champions Scholars’ because we are inspired by the idea that Champions are defined by both their falls and failures as well as their achievements – and it is in how they navigate both that creates a true Champion,” they wrote.
The four women are passionate about providing financial aid to Tufts students.
“Financial aid remains one of the major barriers for otherwise talented and highly eligible prospective students to enter Tufts. All four of us know well the importance of needing financial aid (outside of loans) to ensure an equal opportunity of success,” they wrote. “We were all beneficiaries of financial aid at Tufts. We thought it was important to give that opportunity back – as soon as we could – and in whatever way we could.”
Judge said Tufts has been excited by the level of engagement with fundraising for financial aid.
“I think that [fundraising] almost grows on its own,” Judge said. “We’ve been really pleased to see how many people have been excited about getting engaged and supporting financial aid.”
Now that the Champions Scholars Fund is an official for prospective Tufts students, the alums hope to inspire similar scholarship funds around the country.
“What is exciting is that we can share our experience as a model for others and are being asked to do so at national philanthropic meetings and conferences,” they wrote.
Judge has enjoyed watching alums reconnect to create scholarships and give back to Tufts.
“It’s been a really exciting initiative to be a part of,” Judge said. “One of the goals is to really build this community of engaged alumni, and that’s been, for want of a better word, fun to see develop. There’s just a lot of joy involved with the WIT community, so that’s been very gratifying.”
The alums excitedly anticipate the fund’s first round of students now that their scholarship has come to fruition.
“One of the major reasons that we were so excited to support this fund over a five-year period is that we know the fund will live in perpetuity – beyond our lifetimes,” the alums wrote. “We are extremely proud to be able to contribute to that end. And we are excited to meet the first Champions!”
Editor's note: A previous version of this article referred to Women Impact Tufts by an earlier name, Women's Impact Initiative at Tufts.