“Life will knock you down. Whether you have graduated, moved on with your career or are a current student, there are always going to be things you need to stand up for. Get up. Get up and make a difference.”
With those closing words from Rich Kafusi, director of the Opportunity Scholars program, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dry eye in the Hilton Salt Lake City’s packed auditorium. The event felt like a celebration of impact, with 20 years worth of college graduates reflecting on the impact the program had on their life.
The evening kicked off with mingling in the hall, allowing current students, alumni, faculty, staff and donors the opportunity to connect and catch up. The mood was boisterous and uplifting, exactly what you would hope from a program that invests in under-represented, first generation college students.
The Opportunity Scholars program has benefited from a legacy of passion, starting with it’s founder Jack Brittain, former Dean of the David Eccles School of Business. Jack was a first-generation college student who’s mother got pregnant in 9th grade and dropped out of school. His father was the first person in their family to graduate from high school and his mom regretted not finishing, so she always pushed her kids to go to college. Jack was fortunate enough to get good grades and earn a scholarship, but he realized that he was extraordinarily lucky and not everyone has such opportunities. He told the students that the program only gives them the opportunity for success — each of them produces the success.
Rich Kafusi, the director of the Opportunity Scholars program, opened by thanking his wife for the success of the program, joking that she shares him with all the students, citing around 3,000 text messages between him and his students a month. His heart is clearly in the program and he’s invested in relationships with every student, believing in their ability to be successful. He spoke at length about the power of education and grit. His parents were his motivation to go to school and to stay in school. A football scholarship allowed him to go college and to better provide for his family.
The event was an incredible success, and the Eccles School looks forward to many more years of investing in passionate, under-represented first-generation students.