Through his scholarship foundation, Alan Page helps to create new heroes
By Dami Gilbert
When a former Minnesota Vikings star says he’s in the business of “creating heroes,” the mind easily wanders to strength training, drill running and other avenues of physical betterment. But Alan Page isn’t cultivating the next generation of athletes for young people to look up to.
Following his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, Page and his wife, Diane, founded the Page Education Foundation. Wanting to capitalize on his “15 minutes of fame” and alarmed at the rate by which young people were idolizing athletes and celebrities, Page set out to create the accessible heroes down the street.
“Everybody has somebody in their neighborhood who’s going off to college and has somebody who looks like them, who maybe has some shared experience, who can come back to their community and talk about the importance of education,” Page said. “And not just talk about it, but show by example. That’s what we’re trying to create.”
Page, who spent 15 years in the NFL, became the first defensive player in the league’s history to be named Most Valuable Player. While playing football, he studied law and earned his Juries Doctor in 1978. He believes that societal troubles—such as poverty, crime and racism—result from the failure to understand the importance of education.
“Education is what everyone can benefit from,” Page said. “It’s a tool that can help overcome race, ability or disability. It is a tool that anyone can use to make their future better and brighter.”
The Page Education Foundation provides financial and mentoring assistance to 500 students of color each year. Renewable grants—which are different from loans, in that students do not have to pay them back—are awarded between $1,000 and $2,500.
According to non-profit organization College Board, the cost of attending an in-state public college for 2012-13 without any financial aid rose 3.8 percent to a record $22,261.
Current Page scholar Elizabeth Kong is a senior kinesiology major at the University of Minnesota. She is confident that without the grant, she would have taken a much different route.
“The Page scholarship helped me reach a higher education,” she said. “Without it, I probably wouldn’t have (come) to a four year college. I probably would have (gone) to a community college, an easier way, without loans.”
Unique to the scholarship program is the Service-to-Children aspect—a required 50 hours of service for grant recipients to mentor students of color between kindergarten and 8th grade. This central part of the program is where Page sees the most impact—both with the scholar and the mentees.
“Each person has the ability to reach through to others,” Page said. “And why wouldn’t we take advantage of that ability on the part of our scholars to reach, at a minimum, one child—and quite possibly up to 20 children? Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that? It seems to me it would be a wasted opportunity. It just makes sense that we would have (our scholars) engage in the process of working with children … That’s where the change is going to happen.”
During her first semester, Kong fulfilled the service requirement at Hmong American Partnership—a program that provides Hmong refugees with resources and support for an easier transition to life in America. She was already familiar with the program, as she volunteered there in high school.
“As the president of my volunteer program … I took the (refugee) youth group out to places … I wanted to expose them to American lifestyles. Being able to meet those goals felt good,” she said.
Kong plans to apply her Page Scholarship to a graduate school program once she finishes her undergraduate degree—something the foundation is able to accommodate. Once a scholar is enrolled full-time in post secondary courses, they can re-apply for the grant to cover costs incurred for undergraduate, graduate or Ph.D. programs.
The foundation receives around 900 applications each year, and is only able to accept 500 to the program. A total of three people look over each application, Page himself being one of the reviewers.
“I look for somebody who has financial need, somebody who looks like they will—if given the opportunity—fulfill their service obligations, and who has the potential to contribute,” he said.
Page is incessantly impressed by the work, time and energy that the scholars put in each year.
“Our motto is creating heroes through education and service,’ he said. “Our scholars really do that, they are heroes to the kids (they serve) and also to me.”
PAGE SCHOLARSHIP ELIGIBILITY
WHO CAN APPLY? Students of color who are enrolled full-time in a post-secondary institution in Minnesota, graduated from a Minnesota high school, and are willing to complete a minimum of 50 hours for a Service-to-Children project.
HOW MUCH WILL I GET? Annual grants range from $1,000 to $2,500
WHEN CAN I APPLY? Application for the 2014-2015 school year is available for download in January 2014
HOW DO I APPLY? Download an application packet, which includes a form and a checklist of other materials at www.page-ed.org/for-scholars/grant-application
QUESTIONS? Call (612) 332-0406