By Fritz Klug
Western Michigan University’s Seita Scholars program received a house call from AT&T executives Friday morning. Instead of a monthly statement, the program received a check for $24,000 to purchase 24 laptop computers for the program.
“Spending an hour here today, just living the idea and the creativity and innovation you created here at Western Michigan [shows] that you really have something special,” said Gregory Clark, vice president of AT&T External Affairs in Michigan.
The funding comes from AT&T Aspire, a $100 million initiative from the AT&T Foundation to help improve graduation rates in high schools and prepare students for college and the workforce.
“I think you demonstrated very well that if the public and private side get together good things can happen,” WMU President John Dunn said of the donation.
Founded two years ago by Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D., of the School of Social Work, Mark Delorey, Director of Financial Aid and Director of Admissions Penny Bundy , the Seita Scholarship provides tuition, housing, and personal support for young adults who have aged out of the foster care program. Currently, there are over 50 scholars enrolled.
“Some things are just right,” State Senator Robert Jones, 60th District said. “And this is one of those programs.”
Also in attendance were representatives from State Senator Tom George and US Congressman Fred Upton. John Seita, who the scholarship is named after, was also there.
“This is important on many different levels,” Seita said. “First, on a practical level, it gets the technology in the hands of students…on a second level it shows that the community supports the program.”
Seita, who teaches at Michigan State University, earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at WMU.
One of the students who received a laptop was Nick Burke. Burke went through four school systems in Metro Detroit during his two years in the foster care system.
“I wouldn’t be at a major university without [the scholarship],” he said.
Burke said his first year at WMU has been a stressful, but big step in his life.
“I haven’t been challenged [in the classroom] for over a year and a half,” Burke said.
There are two campus coaches who mentor the scholars “though the good times and bad.”
The Seita program is one big family he said.
“They alway preached that to me,” Burke said. “I didn’t think I’d actually believe it.”