Ford Opportunity and ReStart Scholars Now FSAA Members

What family has 3,000 members, is passionate about education, and promotes community leadership?

The Ford Scholar Alumni Association!

Up until recently, the 13-year-old non-profit organization was comprised exclusively of Ford Scholar Alumni.

But that just changed.

Members of the FSAA voted to amend the bylaws during the Jan. 9 general meeting to include Ford Opportunity and Ford ReStart Scholars in the ranks.

“We have a thousand-plus alumni under those two programs, and they’re doing some pretty incredible work themselves,” said Manager of Scholar and Alumni Engagement Bonnie Williams. “Does it really make sense to create a whole other alumni program when really we consider it the Ford Family of scholarship recipients?”

The bylaws now read: “Ford Scholar, Ford Opportunity and Ford ReStart recipients become Active Members of the Corporation upon acknowledgment of program completion as defined by The Ford Family Foundation (TFFF).”

What does that mean?

It means our FSAA membership suddenly increased by 1,000 members! Our alumni come from three need-based programs run by the Foundation.

Kenneth Ford started the Ford Scholars Program in 1994 to assist students who otherwise would find it difficult to obtain a college degree without financial assistance. Each year, up to 120 students are selected.

Hallie Ford, a founder of The Ford Family Foundation, established the Ford Opportunity Program in 1996 to assist single parents in obtaining a bachelor’s degree. She realized that students who are parents have many extra responsibilities. She was determined to help them by providing financial assistance and encouragement. The Foundation chooses up to 50 Opportunity Scholars annually.

The Ford ReStart Program, which began in 2001, is designed for adults 25 years and older who want to begin or return to full-time post-secondary education to earn a degree – either an associate’s or bachelor’s. Each year, up to 46 Scholars are selected for the ReStart Program.

Why did the FSAA add the two other programs to the organization now?

“I almost say the question is why were they ever excluded,” Williams said.

Perhaps one reason is because when the FSAA was forming in 2003, there were not very many Opportunity and ReStart alumni. Or maybe it was because Ford Scholars are more connected within their classes as a result of the Leadership Conferences they attended as students.

Williams pointed out that Opportunity and ReStart Scholars haven’t connected as much while they were in college because they attended different conferences and were most likely busy with families and work. However, as alumni of all three programs finish college and emerge as professionals, a lot of those differences tend to fall away.

“It just makes so much more sense. Rather than dividing resources, let’s pool our resources and our energy,” she said of adding the two programs to the existing alumni association.

Alumni in all programs share gratitude and commitment for the Foundation.

“Let’s bring that all together to help you all achieve personal goals and community goals,” Williams said.

How will the new alumni be integrated into the FSAA?

“Board representation is one thing I would love to see,” Williams emphasized. “There are smart people already on the board, but they’re not necessarily going to have the same perspective as the people who came from the Ford Opportunity and Ford ReStart programs.”

Williams and board members want to hear the newest FSAA members’ voices and know how they would like to be integrated into the organization.

The FSAA Board encourages all members to participate in committees and events so they become part of the leadership and help shape the future of the association.

“There are going to be a few challenges because the programs are operated a little bit differently,” Williams admitted. “Our strength is in our numbers and in our feeling of connection and family.”

By Holly Scholz