Scholarship fund works to bring Haitians to campus

Peter Wampler and Chris Hendree, from Admissions, talk with students at a Haitian school.
Peter Wampler and Chris Hendree, from Admissions, talk with students at a Haitian school.
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Now in its third year, a scholarship program that will help qualified students from Haiti enroll in Grand Valley nears the $20,000 mark.

Peter Wampler, associate professor of geology, and Mark Schaub, chief international officer, established the Empowering Haiti through Education Fund to give Haitians an opportunity to attend college with the understanding they would later return to their country to further its development.

Wampler said it’s an also an opportunity for the campus community.

“I look at it as a long-term investment for long-term changes in Haiti,” Wampler said, “but it will also make Grand Valley a better place because we’re bringing Haitians here to enrich the university, and giving people an opportunity to get to know Haitians first hand, instead of seeing them only on the news.”

Wampler began traveling to Haiti in 2007 to conduct research on water quality. After years of traveling and building relationships, Wampler said he realized that even if the country’s water issues were solved, a deep socioeconomic divide would remain. “Haitians often have amazing drive and passion to learn, but lack the means to use the talents they possess,” he said.

Two years ago, Wampler and Chris Hendree, from Admissions, traveled to Haiti to visit schools and lay the groundwork for the scholarship program.

He said the teachers and students the Grand Valley group met were excited about the possibility of a scholarship. “I still get frequent emails about it,” Wampler said. “I would love to be able to tell the Haitians that we’re getting closer. It would be amazing if Grand Valley was one of the first universities to offer a scholarship to help Haitians help themselves”

Empowering Haiti through Education Fund supporters and a student organization will host a fundraising banquet in February at The Connection. Visit www.gvsu.edu/haiti for updates on the banquet, and www.gvsu.edu/giveonline to donate to the fund.