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New fund to send Haitian high school grads to college in MI

GVSU professor Peter Wampler talks about the new fund inside Chez Olga, a Haitian restaurant in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
GVSU professor Peter Wampler talks about the new fund inside Chez Olga, a Haitian restaurant in Grand Rapids.

A couple of geology professors conducting research in Haiti want to help the people they met there. And on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, their idea to give young Haitians a college education is becoming reality. Grand Valley State University is launching a fundraising effort to offer scholarships to promising high school students in Haiti.

GVSU Associate Professor of Geology Peter Wampler has been researching water issues in Haiti since 2007. “When I got back from Haiti the first time I felt a real strong desire to do something,” Wampler said, “But it took me about a year and going back again to figure out what that might be.” He and a fellow professor came up with the idea for the scholarship fund to help passionate and bright Haitian students.

“I guess it’s hard to really put it in specific words. Its really in their eyes and in their demeanor. And its not easy for them, you know it’s not like here where you’re forced to go to high school. I mean it costs money to go to high school, you have to pay to go to high school. So there’s a real motivation there. And they really want to be able to achieve their dreams. It’s just now there not very many opportunities.”

Wampler hopes the opportunity of a college education will inspire Haitian students. He thinks the effort will also benefit GVSU students by exposing them to the Haitian students’ experience.

Wampler’s short term goal is to raise $30,000 to get the "Empowering Haiti through Education Fund"started. But he says it will take $250,000 for the fund to raise enough interest each year to cover tuition at Grand Valley for one Haitian student. He hopes the students spread their education through workshops or even a teaching career in their native country.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.