Madison Starns seeks to break down language barriers to reach kids

She’s the first recipient of the Keener Family Education Scholarship

Jay Keener and Madison Starns

Jay Keener and Madison Starns in a Corbin Hall classroom. The new Keener Family Education Scholarship seeks to help Andover High School graduates like Starns attend college at Wichita State.

At a time when the Hispanic population in this country is growing rapidly, Madison Starns has chosen an occupation that will guarantee her an active career for many years to come.

   Starns, a senior at Wichita State, has completed her degree in Spanish and is just a few credit hours away from earning a second degree in elementary education. But her heavy course load means it will take her five years to graduate, something her parents — who are helping finance her education — hadn’t really planned on.

   That’s why Starns is especially grateful to Sandra and Jay Keener for establishing the Keener Family Education Scholarship.

   “The Keener scholarship is really meaningful to me,” says Starns, 22, a Gamma Phi Beta member who was a WSU cheerleader for two years. “It’s helping me plow through my last year of school and be mostly stress-free. I can focus on school. I’m blessed not to have to worry about the money aspect as much as some kids have to.”

   The Keeners live in Andover and wanted to create a scholarship that would help graduates of Andover High School get a college education.

   “My wife and I view education as a big deal,” says Jay Keener, a retirement planning specialist with AXA Advisors LLC. “We wanted to give back to our community, our university and to do something that will help young adults get their start in life.”

“We wanted to give back to our community, our university and to do something that will help young adults get their start in life.”

- Jay Keener '67,'74

   Jay earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at Wichita State and taught for 12 years in Andover before beginning his second career. He has been with AXA Advisors for 33 years, earning his executive education degree in retirement planning from the Wharton School of Business.

   Starns first developed a passion for the Spanish language when she took classes at Andover High School. Now, it’s almost as much a hobby as a vocation.

   “The idea of communicating with people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate with, of breaking down that barrier, is appealing to me,” she says.

   Her plan upon graduation is to get a job teaching elementary school Spanish, hopefully at a school that is similar to Wichita’s Horace Mann magnet school, which devotes half the day to teaching in English and half the day to teaching in Spanish.

   “I’ve always been really comfortable around kids,” Starns says. “I want to make learning fun for them and that will make it fun for me, too. I’m particularly interested in helping Spanish-speaking children learn English as well.”

   Starns chose to attend Wichita State because she liked its size and being close to home and her parents, Rusty and Marla Starns, of Andover. She hasn’t regretted the decision. One of her most valuable experiences at WSU has been participating in the Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning Program, which enabled her to get experience as a teacher’s assistant at Allen Elementary School.

   “I love all of the faculty there and especially the kindergarten teachers who I work with on a regular basis,” she says. “It’s given me very beneficial hands-on experience.”


circle arrow If you would like to establish a scholarship to help deserving students, please contact Mike Lamb, WSU Foundation vice president for Planned and Annual Giving, at (316) 978-3804 or at

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