Catching up with the winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship at MCC

Editor’s note: Chebet Buckner, the 2017 winner of the Chancellor’s MLK Scholarship, compiled this story.

Every winter, Metropolitan Community College honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King through a collegewide day of service. In addition to this, one outstanding early-college student is chosen to receive a $500 scholarship.

First offered in 2015, the Chancellor’s Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship is awarded to students who show strong evidence of leadership and dedication to community service. In addition, special attention is given to applicants who are from under-represented populations.

Queen Wilkes was the first recipient, with Jaquaylah Taylor and Chebet Buckner following in the succeeding years.

With the scholarship program about to enter its fourth year, we decided to get in touch with the previous winners and see where they are in their journeys.

How did you find out about the scholarship?
Queen Wilkes

Queen Wilkes, 2015 winner: I was a member of the Early College Academy at MCC-Penn Valley, so I was lucky enough to have Ms. Paula Schaaf as an adviser and mentor and she made sure to keep me and my peers up to date about scholarship opportunities.

Jaquaylah Taylor, 2016 winner: I found out through Mr. (Robert) Page (MCC executive director of inclusion and engagement).

Chebet Buckner, 2017 winner: I was a student worker in the Office of Instructional Services at the time and I was in the same office as Robert Page. He told me about the scholarship and encouraged me to apply.

If you can recall, what did you talk about in your application essay?

Wilkes: I believe I wrote an essay called “The Big Picture,” which was me briefly describing moments in my life that led me to where I am today. These moments were meant to make up this sort of “big picture” that is my life and signify how every little experience, good or bad, had made me into the leader I am today.

Taylor: In my essay I talked about how important it is to follow your dreams and not being a statistic.

Buckner: Because Martin Luther King Jr. fought against injustices he saw in society, I pinpointed the lack of mentorship for youth as one of the causes of these injustices and why it’s so vital to a person’s success.

How did you feel when you found out you were a recipient of the MLK scholarship?

Wilkes: I was ecstatic! The MLK scholarship was used toward my first-year bachelor’s degree education and it really helped me out. Being honored by the amazing Kathy Humphrey from the University of Pittsburgh was also a great experience and really helped me realize that the sky was the limit and that things would work out as long as I kept making wise choices and being determined for success.

Jaquaylah Taylor at the MLK scholarship luncheon

Taylor: I was super surprised and shocked because I didn’t find out until the day of the MLK event. I was told that I would be singing at the banquet but after I did a song selection they called me up again as the winner, which I feel had a lot to do with Mr. Page.

Buckner: I was actually quite shocked to find out I had received it. Not only was it the first scholarship I was awarded, but I was unsure of how competitive my application would be. It was a very welcome surprise.

How was the scholarship useful to you in terms of financing your education?

Wilkes: I decided to study at a private university in Colorado, so my tuition is a staggering $60,000 per year. A major pricetag. So the MLK scholarship along with additional scholarships I had received really helped me with offsetting that cost.

Taylor: It was used to pay for school supplies and dorm decorations.

Buckner: This scholarship will prove to be very useful, as I am beginning to pay my tuition and fees for school in the fall.

What college or university are you attending now?

Wilkes: I attend the University of Denver, and will be studying abroad this fall at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Taylor: University of Missouri at Columbia.

Buckner: I plan to attend Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, in the fall.

Chebet Buckner with then-MCC Chancellor Mark James
What are you majoring/minoring in?

Wilkes: I am majoring in strategic communication, a more comprehensive public relations major, and minoring in history.

Taylor: Sustainable agriculture with a minor in business.

Buckner: I intend to major in strategic communications and computer science, with a possible minor in Spanish.

What organizations or clubs are you involved with on campus?

Wilkes: I was the assistant coordinator for a four-year developmental program called the Excelling Leaders Institute. I also just finished my term as the Queer Student Alliance president, where I launched some of our new fundraising programs. I am also just finishing my term as vice president for my sorority, the Alpha Xi chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority Inc. I also held the work position of digital media specialist for the Office of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence.

Taylor: Legions of Black Collegians Gospel Choir, CRU Ministry.

Buckner: I haven’t started at my four-year just yet, but while at Penn Valley I was president of Phi Theta Kappa and a member of their American Association of University Women chapter.

What are you doing this summer?

Wilkes: I am working at the University of Denver residence halls as a desk assistant and finishing up hiring paperwork for an internship with an educational media group in Denver. I am working a lot this summer trying to save up money for my yearlong study-abroad experience in Scotland.

Taylor: This summer I am working at a sports camp called Kids Across America that gives youth an opportunity to learn about Jesus through tons of activities.

Buckner: I am working in the MCC Office of Communications and Public Relations as well as interning in the operations department for the Office of the Mayor of Kansas City.

What was your time at MCC-Penn Valley like?

Wilkes: Penn Valley will always have a place in my heart. The staff and faculty are amazing and passionate members of the community who actually care about what they teach. Community colleges often have a bad reputation, but I believe that if you want the opportunity to really learn and be engaged and not have to pay thousands of dollars for it, there is no better place than Penn Valley.

Taylor: Penn Valley was amazing. I was able to make great connections with people like Paula Schaaf, Robert Page and (former president) Dr. (Joe) Seabrooks, who influenced not only my drive for success but also skills within myself like patience and self-control.

Buckner: Attending Penn Valley was an amazing experience. I felt welcomed by the staff and students on campus, which pushed me to meet new people and get involved on campus. This is definitely going to be one of the more memorable times of my life.

What effect did the Early College Academy have on your current success?

Wilkes: I owe so much of my success to Ms. Schaaf and the Early College Academy. The Early College Academy allowed me to bypass so many general education courses, saving me nearly $120,000, and allowed me to get right into my program, which I love. However, it is more than just the money saved. There are so many valuable skills that you gain from being in the program like financial literacy, resume and cover letter writing skills, interview and networking skills. I am so blessed to have been a part of this program and I will always attribute a large portion of my success to it.

Taylor: It allowed me to be prepared academically and socially for the university that I am currently attending.

Buckner: The fact that I’ve graduated from high school with my associate degree has helped me make connections with people who might be able to help me along my journey, as well as allowed me to get my foot in the door for some programs I’m applying for.

What do you plan to do after graduating?

Wilkes: I am considering moving to the United Kingdom to either continue my education (get my master’s degree in corporate communications) or go straight into public relations work. I would like to work with a public relations firm so that I have the opportunity to work on different campaigns in different sectors, but I would also be interested in working in music public relations specifically, as I love music and feel that my strengths would be exemplified in that environment.

Taylor: After I graduate I plan to work for a nonprofit organization marketing healthy and cheaper food options in low-income neighborhoods.

Buckner: I’m not exactly sure what I want to do yet, but I know that I love the field of communications and I hope that I can find a career that allows me to work in that area.

The Chancellor’s MLK Scholarship is just one of many scholarships offered by MCC. Visit the scholarship information page to find more ways to fund your education while at MCC.

Related: MLK Chancellor’s Scholarship Winner: Queen Wilkes (March 12, 2015)

Winner of Chancellor’s MLK Scholarship announced (Jaquaylah Taylor, Jan. 22, 2016)

MCC-Penn Valley student Chebet Buckner wins Chancellor’s MLK Scholarship (Jan. 20, 2017)