Scholarship recipient finds ways to pay it forward
More than 2,500 students at Wichita State receive scholarships each year, with more than $3.7 million going toward need-based aid in the last year alone. This spring, those scholarships helped more than 600 students across the finish line of the commencement stage, ushering them into the world as Wichita State University alumni.
Some of these students are beginning their professional careers while others will continue their studies in pursuit of a graduate degree. Regardless of their next steps, these students carry a special mission to help those behind them, just as they were helped through their higher education at WSU.
“Having someone invested in my education and success when they don’t even know me personally was so impactful,” said social work graduate Ivan Castillo. “These are people who give and say, ‘I may not know who you are, but I know your mission and I can support it.’ I want to walk alongside people in the same way.”
Castillo is a community builder, but his passion to support others was born at WSU. He is a firm believer in the power of opening doors, largely because of the opportunities he found during his time here.
“I really identify with the phrase, ‘it takes a village,’” he said, laughing. “My success and opportunities have not been mine alone, so I try to pay it forward. If someone has opened a door for me, I want to open it even wider for those who come after.”
He says it’s part of a commitment to walk alongside people where they’re at to help them get where they’re going. He named many peers and mentors who helped him through his own collegiate career, including the donors whose scholarships provided funding for him to continue his education when the pandemic began.
Several of these were endowed scholarships, some of which have helped dozens of students achieve their dreams since they were established.
“I’m so thankful for these donors,” said Castillo. “They make these endowments and may never see the full reach of how they help. But they have a huge impact.”
One way Castillo is already working to help those around him is through his work as a diversity intern for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions – translating documents for students with Spanish-speaking families and helping identify gaps in the admissions process for Hispanic and first-generation students like him.
“So many colleges do great work in supporting students academically, but at WSU there’s such a focus on supporting students holistically,” said Castillo. “That’s what I want to do. It’s hard to find environments that allow you to feel vulnerable and provide the support to succeed within that, and I want to help create those environments.”