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Black Colorado students pursuing more opportunities with help of scholarships

Sachs Foundation awarded $2.44 million in scholarships
Jemil Kassahun
Posted at 9:55 AM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 11:55:53-04

More Black students in Colorado are pursuing higher degrees and attending elite institutions, thanks in part to a scholarship created by a white Colorado man almost 100 years ago.

On Wednesday, the Sachs Foundation announced it has awarded $2.44 million in scholarships to Black students from Colorado over the past year.

Henry Sachs started his foundation in 1930 after observing discrimination against his own Jewish community and the Black community in Colorado. He saw education as a way to provide Black Coloradans with more opportunities. Sachs Foundation President Ben Ralston said inequities in education remain an issue to this day.

“Funding opportunities need to be created in order to battle that inequity,” Ralston said.

Denver7 previously reported declines in Black students attending colleges in Colorado during the pandemic.

Ralston added the students awarded Sachs scholarships are some of the most talented in the state.

“When you start meeting the students and you start meeting the scholars and seeing the type of impact they’ve already had on the world, it's a driving force behind wanting to continue the work that we do,” Ralston said.

Sachs scholarship recipient Jemil Kassahun was always on the college track but said without the scholarship, he would have struggled to pay for his education.

“Sachs allowed me to have more flexibility in my undergraduate career because it meant that I didn't have to work part-time, 20 hours or more to pay for my living expenses,” Kassahun said.

With that time, Kassahun was able to join student government at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and work with multicultural and social justice organizations. He said he believes those activities led to his acceptance at the CU law school, where he plans to continue his advocacy work.

“The plan is to do legal clinics back in my hometown of Aurora, potentially taking part in immigration clinics,” Kassahun said.

Kassahun’s own parents came to Colorado from Ethiopia in the 1990s.

Other Sachs scholarship recipients are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees from prestigious institutions including Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Yale. About 20% are attending prominent historically Black colleges and universities.

The Sachs Foundation scholarship is available to Colorado students who identify as Black. It’s awarded based on both need and merit. The application period is from January to March of each year.