A group of MBA students are raising money to expose higher education opportunities to underprivileged Lakota, Native American youth living in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota.
The Kola foundation hosted its second annual 5K April Fools Race in an effort to provide scholarships to Lakota high school students. This year’s scholarships will bring two students from the Pine Ridge to the U of I campus this summer to participate in a 4-week long research apprenticeship known as the RAP program. The race was held at the University of Illinois Arboretum. Over 100 participants, adults, kids and even some MBA students crossed the finish line to support the good cause.
The foundation visits the reservation to help sponsor a business plan competition and engage with students. First year MBA student, Melissa Chua says the program is a great way for under-served Lakota youth to acquire a better understanding of math, science and research at the college level.
“We are business students so we want to give them the business know how and teach them about other prospects of a higher education,” said Chua. “We want to incentivize high school students on the reservation to seek high education. That’s the ultimate goal of Kola”.
The Kola Foundation is a not-for- profit organization that was founded by Illinois MBA students. They have partnered with College of ACES and other popular franchises such as Kraft Foods Inc. and PepsiCo.
South Dakota is the third poorest county in the United States with an 80-90% an unemployment rate. President of the Kola Foundation, Brittany Hopper recalls her first time visiting the reservation.
“Over the summer we do a volunteer trip to the reservation. I went there and saw how much a need. That’s what got me to get involved with Kola.”
All registration fees for the race go toward the scholarships. While the program is an all-expense paid experience, the goal is to raise $1800 dollars.
“The program covers tuition costs and airfare, but we want to provide them with money to take care of additional living expenses during their time here,” said Hopper.
Hopper is confident that the students experience on a university campus will go far beyond their on understanding of the importance of a higher education.
“We hope that by inspiring young people we can make it a snowball effect to have a bigger impact on the community.”
To find out more about the Kola Foundation or how you can donate visit www.kolafoundation.org.