Local and national leaders rise up to support Wichita youth


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Rise Up for Youth co-founders David and Lynn Gilkey say this year has been extremely difficult for students in their group. Rise Up for Youth is a high school mentorship program with more than 450 participants across six Wichita public schools. 

The Gilkeys are happy to rise up and honor their high school seniors and reward them with scholarships, and this year they did it in a big way — the organization had a virtual empowerment celebration on April 22, where eight high school seniors received scholarship money to pursue their dreams.

One of those scholarship recipients is Northeast Magnet Senior Kiana Muhwezi. She said getting the scholarship is really taking off the stress of college costs.

“I won’t have to struggle as much with financial issues or anything like that or rely on my parents or loans because it’s something I’m really trying to avoid,” Muhwezi said.

Muhwezi said she was surprised when she got a text from her Rise Up for Youth mentor Keyocsha Brown telling her the big news.

“At first, I thought it was a random screenshot,” Muhwezi said. “So I thought she was just sent something from Cash App. But when she told me she was like, ‘You won a scholarship,’ I was shocked.”

Muhwezi will attend Arizona State University in the fall. She will major in psychology and wants to become a neurologist.

During the empowerment ceremony, powerhouse guest speakers attended virtually. Those speakers included Valerie Jarrett who was President Obama’s former advisor, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and CNN commentator Van Jones. Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Alicia Thompson, Mayor Brandon Whipple, and Governor Laura Kelly also participated.

The Gilkeys are just $10,000 short of their $50,000 fundraising goal. 

Lynn Gilkey said the best investment that anybody could ever make is empowering our students to be successful. “It’s never really been about the money,” said David Gilkey. “It’s been about how we work with our young people and change lives, but of course, you can’t do without funding.” 

Those investments have worked. In the past five years, Rise Up for Youth has seen a 100-percent graduation rate. 

To donate or to watch the free empowerment ceremony, click here.

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