Living a dream, thanks to United Way's LAUNCH program
Growing up, Will Medina never thought his dream of going to college or pursuing music as a career would be possible. As the child of immigrants, he and his family faced many challenges during his youth. He always knew, however, that education was the best way to fulfill his potential.
Thanks to United Way’s LAUNCH cost-sharing college and career program, he was able to attain a degree in music education and achieve financial stability and career goals.
LAUNCH is designed for students who, like Will, come from low-income households, are first-generation college attendees and have a strong work ethic. The program's Education Account, which covers tuition, fees, books, and supplies, provides an 8-to-1 match: the participant saves up to $500 and receives up to $4,000 of matching funds. Applicants must submit an essay outlining their education and career aspirations and, if selected for the program, students have access to career coaches and business partners who assist them in finding the best path to fit their individual skillset and capacity.
The purpose of LAUNCH, according to Julie Riddle, senior community impact manager at United Way of Greater Kansas City, is to help students “invest in their own education, learning about saving and asset building for themselves, and not just for the purpose of college, but later in the life.”
For Will, it did just that. “It made a world of a difference,” he said. “It not only made college possible, but it definitely set up foundational money-saving skills. The program solidified what’s important and how to do it.”
Today, Will is living his dream as a teacher in Alaska, a job opportunity he found through a career fair at his college in Kansas. Each week, he travels throughout 10 different villages, flying out of his village on Mondays (where the district office is located) and returning for the weekend on Fridays.
“It’s three things I love: travel, teaching and music,” Wil said. “I get the opportunity every day to pay it forward. I get to share my love of music with others as well as help students realize and reach their potential.”