The Burwen Education Foundation (BEF), which has provided full college scholarships for 19 AVID students and smaller scholarships for over 70 students over the past 14 years, is phasing out at MVHS.
The foundation gave out the full college scholarship for the last time this year, but they will continue to give out smaller “honorable mentions” scholarships of $500-1000 for the next four years. The foundation’s founders, also parents of MVHS alumni, Susan adn David Burwen, are nearing the end of their initial endowment.
BEF differed from other scholarship foundations because it provided a larger amount of money to a smaller number of students. The smaller number of recipients gave the Burwens the ability to intensively mentor students throughout their college experience.
The Burwens have stayed in constant contact with the scholars via email and meet them in person four times a year to review academic performance as well as other personal issues.
However, the Burwens said that they feel their age may now inhibit their ability to continue to mentor their scholars personally.
The Burwens formed the BEF in 2003 after becoming familiar with the MVHS AVID program, which aims to prepare first generation college students for college.
“We could count on the AVID program to select the demographic that we wanted to help and to get them college ready,” Susan Burwen said. “It enabled us to piggyback on that and really helped us focus in on the students we wanted to help.”
Each year, senior AVID students had the opportunity to apply for the full, four year scholarship. According to the Burwens, while grades and family income were evaluated, the most important qualities were persistance and determination in the face of obstacles.
Ana Sofia Garay, a 2016 Burwen Scholar winner, has found a new family through the scholarship.
“Winning the Burwen Scholarship is so much more than financial help; it’s also mentorship,” Garay said. “The Burwens and the scholars have become a second family to me…They all welcomed me with open arms.”
For 2-3 students each year, BEF finances all expenses for four years of college, typically ranging between $6,000-12,000 after financial aid and other scholarships, which included tuition, living expenses, books/supplies, and travel fees.
This was the last year the 2-3 students were chosen for the full ride scholarships. However, 10-12 honorable mentions, smaller and one time only scholarships, will be given out each year for the next three years.
Because of the commitment that the larger endowment requires, the Burwens believe that their age no longer allows them to fully contribute to the mentorship as they have before.
“What we realize is that the mentoring is such an huge part of our foundation and we’re getting older and need to assess our ability to carry on in that aspect,” Susan Burwen said.
Though their initial endowment is reaching its end, the Burwens prepare to continue working with their final students.
“Our involvement with the students is a phenomenal source of joy. It’s like we’ve created an extended family for ourself and we’ve watched them grow and blossom and make a difference in other people’s live,” Susan Burwen said. “We continue to offer guidance. There are always challenges and always setbacks and we help them be resilient.”
The full endowment may be phasing out, but the Burwens’ contributions will not be forgotten by students who have previously received mentorship and financial aid.
“With the guidance of amazing mentors, I understood that education is about becoming a more informed citizen and using my knowledge and passion to help make life better for others,” said scholar and 2007 UCLA graduate Gladys Gudino. “It allowed me to become a role model not only for my family but for the many youth.”