A decade of student success in the Kenyon Educational Enrichment Program (KEEP) has now garnered some philanthropic support.
KEEP is an intensive academic experience that gives incoming Kenyon students from under-represented populations early coursework and connects them with peers and mentors.
“I love the commitment that these students show,” said Donna Bertolet Poseidon ’75, a member of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees. She has contributed permanent funding to provide one student with a scholarship to KEEP.
“They could be out earning money at a job or just having fun in their last summer before college, but they give up their summer to do this program. Someone willing to sacrifice that to improve themselves gets an A in my book. As I interview people at my workplace, I look for that quality,” Poseidon said.
KEEP has fueled the growth in the number of students of color and first-generation students on campus. For example, first-generation college students are 10 percent of Kenyon’s student population; they are 40 percent of the KEEP students.
“All of our parents were first-generation college students, so we owe them a lot. We thought this was a good way to show our appreciation for what we had been given,” said David B. Dawson ’63, who made a contribution to the program with his wife, Virginia.
KEEP grew out of summertime writing and quantitative reasoning courses. The Board of Trustees approved College funding for 12 KEEP scholars in 2007 and in 2012 increased funding to serve a total of 24 students each summer. This summer the College has 25 KEEP scholars because of increased interest in the program.
The new philanthropic funding will eventually provide five KEEP scholarships, paid by permanently invested funds. Endowed funds relieve pressure on Kenyon’s operating budget by annually contributing a percentage of their invested market value to the budget.
“Kenyon stands for quality in its education. For Kenyon to also stand for equality of opportunity, that’s an area that needs some investment,” David Dawson said.
The Dawsons endowed three of the KEEP scholarships after meeting KEEP students in 2017. Virginia said, “The students were so delightful and enthusiastic about what they were doing. They were savvy. They knew what they wanted to do with this Kenyon education. I know they’re going to do well in life.”
Kenyon’s overall graduation rate is 89 percent. KEEP students reach a rate of more than 94 percent.
Poseidon said, “Kenyon has always been part of breakthrough programming, and KEEP is one of those programs. KEEP is awesome, it is comprehensive and it is complete. Kenyon is a community of students, faculty and alumni, and KEEP allows us to accelerate the way people join the Kenyon community and form their own community within it.”
Stephanie and Jason Summers ’98 have also endowed a KEEP scholarship. After the summertime session, the KEEP community of students and faculty mentors continues, and KEEP students get stipends to pay for books and educational supplies and to relieve loan and work-study obligations.
Stephanie Summers said, “Students still have trouble paying things like a lost room key fee. These students have no margins. But now I think KEEP addresses some of that. President [Sean] Decatur understands that we need to work on helping students make institutional connections, and we need to address regressive structures that the students face.”
Jason Summers likes KEEP’s track record of improving retention among underserved populations.
“As an employer, the challenge we have is labor mobility. And with members of underserved populations coming into our workforce, we’re trying to give people resiliency in their space,” he said. “KEEP is doing this well and doing it programmatically. For me, this work is vital to the economic functioning of our country.”