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IOWA CITY - An ACT Scholar program enabled Eduardo Munoz to be the first in his family to go to college, graduating from Kirkwood Community College for an associate degree and continuing to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to study mechanical engineering.
Munoz was born in Mexico City, migrating to the U.S. with his parents in 2003. When it came time for it, Munoz wasn't sure how he was going to afford college, and was worried his family wouldn't be able to pay off his student debt.
'These opportunities could change a lot of lives,” Munoz said.
The ACT Scholars Program was created in 2010, in honor of ACT's 50th anniversary, to provide full-tuition scholarships to students from low-income populations, Black, Latinx, and Native and Indigenous populations, and first-generation students attending the University of Iowa Graduate College and Kirkwood Community College.
The scholarship has served nearly 150 students at Kirkwood and the University of Iowa, through endowments totaling $7 million.
Kirkwood endowed $2 million, which has benefited 126 students, 112 who have graduated, five who are currently studying and nine who did not complete a degree.
The University of Iowa endowed $5 million, benefiting 23 students, seven who have graduated, 15 who are currently studying and one who did not complete a degree.
To celebrate, ACT hosted a webinar Tuesday morning, with scholars who benefited from the program discussing the challenges of paying for college and being a student of color on a predominantly white campus.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, dean and professor of education in the School of Education at American University.
Panelists include ACT Scholars Dr. DaVida Anderson, director of student care and integrity at Carroll Community College, Dr. Rosina Britton, faculty member at Adler Graduate School, Charles Martin-Stanley II, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa, and Munoz, student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and graduate of Kirkwood Community College.
The scholars reflected on the opportunities being a recipient opened up for them, and what they hope the ACT Scholarship can do in the next 10 years and beyond.
Martin-Stanley said there was a time Black men like him were unable to earn a college degree.
'We still have a long way to go,” he said. 'Change looks like initiatives like the ACT Scholar program, having more representation of historically marginalized students attend college and do so in a way that will allow them to thrive academically.”
For the scholar program to further help students, Martin-Stanley said ACT needs to foster mentor programs. 'The work ACT is doing is so pivotal and important because we're changing the narrative, saying students of color do belong in higher education,” Martin-Stanley said.
The ACT Scholar program enabled Anderson to follow her dream of earning her Ph.D., she said.
As director of student care and integrity at Carroll Community College, Anderson said she would never shut the door to another ACT Scholar.
'It would have been a dream deferred if not for (the ACT scholarship),” she said. 'You can't do anything in isolation. Mentorship is critical, and ACT is such a powerhouse of connections across the nation and abroad.”
Britton said being an ACT Scholar not only meant financial support, but having a cohort she could connect with.
She also hopes in the future, the ACT Scholar program will connect current scholars with alumni.
'Give students a platform to showcase their research, to get top-notch jobs, endless opportunities to tap into career-building,” she said.
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