Paying it Forward through scholarships

Paying it Forward through scholarships

Diversity of experience, point of view, and opportunity is abundant in Austin, and all are needed for the important dialogue that builds great leaders. One of Leadership Austin’s core values is inclusiveness where we consciously choose to learn about and include multiple viewpoints in our deliberations, recognizing the value of each person and the added importance of hearing from those who have different ideas than we do. Communities are comprised of many individuals and groups, each representing history, culture, passion, and perspective, and we want to encourage respect of these influences on each person. But sometimes, financial barriers prevent people access from sharing their perspectives and insights and their voices cannot be heard by others.

The core value of inclusiveness drives our commitment to ensure selected applicants’ financial capacity does not determine their ability to participate. Since 1999, Leadership Austin has awarded over 230 scholarships worth more than $270,000 to selected Emerge and Essential candidates—enriching the experience for all class members. This is made possible through individual contributions from our alumni and supporters who believe tuition should never be a barrier to participation.

Leadership Austin Alumni, Terri Broussard Williams (Essential Affiliate 2008), Lemuel Williams (Emerge 2012), Ed Kargbo of (Emerge 2008), and Laurie Loew (Essential 2012), all recognized that the diversity in the class is what helped make their experiences so rich. To ensure that the diversity is a constant element in the class, all have established scholarships.

williams_familyTerri Broussard Williams and Lemuel Williams established the Williams Family Fund because,  “It is our hope that young minority professionals can participate in the Emerge program with scholarship funds, volunteer at an organization about which they are passionate and, in return, give back to Leadership Austin. We hope this inspires them to have a lifetime of community service.”



Ed Kargbo created five scholarships for the Emerge program through Yellow Cab Cares Scholarships.  He was motivated by Leadership Austin’s efforts in include people from a wide range of backgrounds.  Ed said, “We volunteered to help Leadership Austin in that effort to continue to be as inclusive as it’s been. To get people into the fold who might not if economics and finances are a reason they aren’t applying. We are creating a way to help them out.”

loew_laurieLaurie Loew supports students through her Social Entrepreneur Fund. “I found the Essential class so life altering that I decided I wanted my company—Give Realty—to provide a scholarship fund for future participants with a social entrepreneurship background. I was fortunate to cross paths with Leadership Austin early in my social entrepreneurial journey, and what I learned through their programs has helped me define the roads I have taken both personally and professionally. It’s my hope that by providing scholarship funds for the Essential class, other social entrepreneurs will find guidance and blaze new trails for the benefit of Austin and the world at large.”


Organizations like the Asian Community & Education Foundation and the Creative Alliance  as well as families also contribute scholarships to individuals in the classes. The recipients of scholarships are extremely grateful for the financial assistance and will continue to pay it forward as well – either through the impact they have on the community or contributing funds to future class members.


Dana Callender of Emerge 2014 said, “I am so grateful for the scholarship I received from the Williams Family Fund, which paid half of my tuition for the 2014 Leadership Austin Emerge Program. As a small business owner, every dollar counts. Through the Emerge program, I met so many amazing people, and new friends, who I wouldn’t have otherwise. Everyone’s excitement about our city and their community involvement is so inspiring. I cannot wait to see all of the impactful things our class will do together!”

It is only through the support of alumni and supporters like you that we are able to ensure qualified applicants like Dana are able to fully participate in our programs. If you are interested in setting up a scholarship fund on behalf of your organization or family, please contact Carol Collins Director of Development and Marketing at