WASHINGTON, DC — With her eyes on becoming an attorney, Sydney Johnson has always been ambitious but wonders if she would be going to Kentucky State University this fall on a full scholarship if it were not for the support of the Lincoln Foundation.
"I don’t think I would have these opportunities without them propelling me," she said.
A member of the class of 2020, Johnson has been a part of the Louisville based college preparatory program since 7th grade.
"Our whole junior year was dedicated to ACT prep. We would go and do practice tests, break down the tests, so we can boost our scores."
The 18-year-old's composite score was 25.
"What we try to do is find young people who have above-average academics who come from below-average income households and we provide them with enrichment programming, tutoring programming, and exposure," said Marshall Bradley, the foundation's president.
Founded in 1910, the Lincoln Foundation now serves more than 450 mostly Black and Latino students. COVID-19 has forced the program to swiftly adopt distance learning, pour more resources into supporting graduating seniors, and alter its structure in advance of the fall.
"This will be the first year we will not take in 7th graders. That’s a major change for us, a critical change though. Given the resources we have, we wanted to figure out how we could provide help and assistance to the oftentimes forgotten freshman year students without blowing up the budget and requiring additional funds," said Bradley.
Bradley says the future of education may not be the most visible concern to lawmakers during the pandemic but as Congress debates additional support, it should be considered.
"Long term we cannot lose sight of these students."
Johnson is disappointed her younger brother, Solomon Johnson Jr., who is also a part of the program, likely won't be able to take advantage of initiatives that she enjoyed, like Lincoln's Summer Institute, anytime soon.
"A lot of the scholars are selected to go to a college and spend two weeks there and take classes and stay on campus. That experience helped me get enthusiastic about going to college. It gave me a glimpse into the life of a college student. That helped a lot of us," she reflected.
Bradley says he anticipates the foundation may be impacted by a fundraising shortfall of up to $200,000 by year-end.