Former Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson and his wife, Stacy, have established a generous scholarship at Wichita State University to help children of undocumented immigrants earn their degrees to pursue the American Dream.
The Parkinsons said they believe the contributions of immigrants have helped the United States become the greatest country in the world.
“What we have built in the United States is a miracle,” Mark Parkinson said. “The question was whether people from all over the world could come together, form a new government, build a just society, practice free market capitalism and succeed. The results have been spectacular.”
He added: “Yet, there are some who have forgotten what we are all about. They belittle and intimidate our new generation of immigrants. Stacy and I want these new pioneers to understand that they are not alone. Immigrants are not only welcome, they are a vital part of our country’s future success.”
The Parkinsons, who live in Washington, D.C., have donated $200,000 to launch the Mark and Stacy Parkinson Scholarship for First Generation Immigrant Students. It is intended to support undocumented students who are the children of immigrants, especially those in the DACA program. Although the scholarship designates a preference for undocumented immigrants, it is not required that all recipients be undocumented or covered by DACA.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protects individuals whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally from being deported. WSU currently has about 60 students who have identified themselves as DACA participants.
First scholarship recipients
The two students selected as the first recipients will receive $34,000 each over four years, beginning this fall. They are Javier Martinez, a senior at Kapaun Mt. Carmel in Wichita, and Jonathan Lozano, a senior at Shawnee Heights near Topeka. The award of $8,500 a year is intended to defray most of the cost of tuition, fees and books for an academic year. In each of the next three years, one additional student will receive the scholarship.
Martinez, who plans to major in mechanical engineering, is student body president at Kapaun. He has participated in youth orchestra, is a National Honor Society officer and a track and field captain. He volunteers at his church and The Lord’s Diner, which provides meals for those in need.
former Kansas governor
Lozano has participated in sports, National Honor Society, Key Club, Student Council
and Spirit Club. He has a 4.0 grade-point average, volunteers for community organizations
such as the Kiwanis and has a part-time job.
Stacy Parkinson, an attorney who works as a citizenship instructor for adults pursuing naturalization, said Lozano and Martinez are good examples of the talent and ambition many young immigrants have to offer.
“Immigrants are our heritage and the fabric of our country,” she said. “People with differing thoughts, cultures and experiences are what make our communities and nation vibrant and robust.”
About the Parkinsons
The Parkinsons grew up in Wichita. Mark graduated summa cum laude from Wichita State in 1980. Stacy attended WSU, but completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas. Both got their law degrees from the KU School of Law. The couple has been long-time supporters of Wichita State, endowing one scholarship to support students who participate in the WSU debate program and another for students who want to work as interns in Washington, D.C.
Mark Parkinson was lieutenant governor of Kansas when then-President Obama appointed Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to his cabinet. Parkinson became governor in 2009 and served nearly two years. He chose not to run for governor in 2010. Today, he is president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities nationwide.
Mark Parkinson said it is “a dream come true” for him and Stacy to support immigrant students, “especially at a university we feel so strongly about.”
“We want the entire immigrant population to know that there are many who support and welcome them,” he said. “We will view this scholarship as successful if the recipients graduate and make a difference in our communities.”
The Parkinsons said they were inspired to establish the scholarship by a similar step taken by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. They hope their gift will inspire others to help immigrants be successful.