Emerging Scholars

In 2008, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, Breakthrough Austin, and the Emerging Scholars Fund launched a partnership to aid low-income, first-generation college-bound students by providing financial assistance for Breakthrough students attending St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. The goal of the partnership is to remove the financial barriers to success for Breakthrough students, who will be the first in their families to attend college. While these Breakthrough students will face many challenges on their path, from entering St. Stephen’s as a ninth grader to walking across the stage with a college diploma, lack of financial resources should not be one of those challenges for students participating in this program.

The Emerging Scholars Fund was founded by Carolyn and Jack Long based on the simple principle that education truly is the great equalizer in American society. The fund provides the financial resources to fund up to 12 students participating in the Breakthrough Program through four years of high school at St. Stephen’s and four years of “gap” funding at any public college or university in Texas. An additional seven Breakthrough students currently enrolled at St. Stephen’s also are eligible for college gap funding. The unique aspect of the Emerging Scholars support is that it spans the eight years from high school through college and is dependent only on the student remaining in good standing in school and with the Breakthrough program.

Meet Adria and Brian Sheth

“For us, Emerging Scholars presented the opportunity to show kids that they are worth investing in, that they will go on to do great things,” said Brian Sheth, explaining the couple’s decision to give $1 million to St. Stephen’s to participate in the Emerging Scholars challenge grant made by program founders and former St. Stephen’s parents Carolyn and Jack Long. Together, the two families have contributed $3 million for this vital initiative at St. Stephen’s. Other donors have contributed more than $1 million, for a total of $4 million for Emerging Scholars from our donor community.

“We were so impressed by Jack and Carolyn,” said Brian, whose family gift was made through The Sangreal Foundation. “They were so sincere and earnest in their desire to help these kids that we had to join them! Their passion is incredibly inspiring — as is Bob Kirkpatrick’s commitment on behalf of the school to make this program a success.”

Originally called Stephen’s Kids and conceived as a weekend outreach program for low-income students, the program was significantly reenergized in 2008 when the school partnered with Breakthrough Austin to provide the personal and academic supports needed for these potential first-generation college graduates.

The Emerging Scholars Fund provides full tuition for three to four Breakthrough students each year through all four years of high school at St. Stephen’s for a total school enrollment of 12 to 16 Breakthrough students any given year.

“Thanks to this program, students can work hard at St. Stephen’s and get into an excellent college with a healthy financial aid grant. Colleges love Emerging Scholar students because they are so talented and have been exceptionally well prepared at St. Stephen’s,” noted Sheth, president of Vista Equity Partners in Austin.

“My parents always made it clear to me how I was able to attend Penn,” said Sheth, whose own college tuition was covered by full financial aid from the university. “Both Adria and I received benefits throughout our youth from community-based programs and philanthropic-minded people. We want to provide those same opportunities to the next generation of college-bound kids.

“We also hoped that our gift would help raise awareness about Emerging Scholars and encourage others to support the program.”

Emerging Scholars at St. Stephen's

Since its inception in 1995 Stephen’s Kids and now the Emerging Scholars Program has been coordinated by Yvonne Adams, the school’s Emerging Scholars liaison and Director of Diversity.

Throughout the years, she has seen first-hand how the program can change children’s lives. “Most of these kids come from low-income families and have not had access to many things other St. Stephen’s students take for granted. ”

To ease their transition, Mrs. Adams regularly meets with the students to help them acclimate to life on The Hill. “Over time, they grow confident in their abilities and with sharing their talents. Seeing these students that have come from a similar background as me get excited about learning, independently take new ideas to a higher level, and take pride in working to solving challenging problems all is a wonderful thing to witness." she said.

“Compared to their peer group back home, Emerging Scholar students are more independent, better advocates for themselves, and ready for the world because they have been exposed to so much of it at St. Stephen’s,” she noted. “Emerging Scholars closes the gap in access to the things that lead to a successful life.”