Connor Nowalk and John Kearney raise over $13,500 for undocumented students in Kansas City — and they’re just getting started

Kansas City, MO. Connor Nowalk, Lean Lab alumnus from the first cohort of The Incubator Fellowship and current Data and Strategy Manager at The Literacy Lab, co-founded The Pell Project with John Kearney to raise college scholarship funds for undocumented students in Kansas City. To date, the organization has raised over $13,500, supporting 1 student in the 2016–17 school year, and last fall, The Pell Project’s partnered with the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Development Fund to secure funding for one of at least three scholarships planned for the 2017–18 school year.

The Pell Project matches the Pell Grant in order to help qualified students more easily afford college. For the 2017–18 school year, that amounts to $5,920 per pupil.

Currently, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are ineligible for federal financial aid. Additionally, Missouri House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 224 say “public colleges and universities must charge so-called DACA students the highest rate of tuition available — either the out-of-state or the international rate.” This type of legislation mirrors an increasingly strained national conversation regarding immigrants in the United States. Recently, President Trump has issued an executive order to build a wall along the U.S. southern border. Barack Obama’s executive order allowing DACA students to get 2 year deferred action remains untouched.

“John and I were frustrated at seeing students work really hard for four years, get accepted into school, and then not be [eligible to attend] for financial reasons because of their citizenship status. We wanted to do something about it,” says Nowalk.

Nowalk participated in the first cohort of The Lean Lab’s Incubator Fellowship, where he founded a ventured called Echograde, an app that motivates students through meaningful, paperless feedback.

“When I was involved with The Lean Lab, I learned that starting a venture doesn’t have to just be a thing that you dream about, it’s something that you can actually do — and if you see a great enough need, you should actually do it,” says Nowalk. “The Lean Lab gave me the fundamentals of how to turn an idea into an organization. It also helped me connect with other folks in the education community in Kansas City. Though [Echograde] ultimately was not successful, I have been able to use many lessons I’d learned as a Lean Lab Fellow to help me build The Pell Project.”

Because The Pell Project is funded entirely by donations, the number of students it serves depends on your support. Click here to donate.