An Indirect Path to Success 

Osher Reentry Scholarships aid students returning for degree completion


December, 2016

“It’s not unusual to have one of my Kindergartners give me a hug after class and say, ‘I love you,’” says Rachael Townsend.  A recipient of an Osher Reentry Scholarship, Townsend completed dual bachelor degrees, one in secondary education and one in biology, and a minor in chemistry in May, 2016.   She started teaching science to Kindergartners through eighth graders at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy this fall.

Townsend first attended UMKC right after high school graduation.  “I left after two semesters,” she says.  “I wanted to work and figure out what I wanted to do.” She built a career in the food service industry, eventually serving in management positions, for ten years before she knew she was ready to go back to college. “It was time to build a career,” she says.  At that time, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.  “It was teaching from the get go. And science has always been a passion.”                

For the next five years she focused on her goal.  “I was all business.  My wife supported me the whole time. She wanted me to be successful. She was my rock,” says Townsend.  Even with her wife’s emotional and financial support, the couple would not have been able to afford tuition without the help of the Osher Reentry Scholarship, a scholarship fund that was established by The Osher Foundation in 2010 to support students who are reentering academic life.  “We wouldn’t have made it without the scholarship,” Townsend says.

While Townsend was planning on working in secondary education, she took the job as science teacher at Tolbert.  A charter school at 34th and Paseo, Tolbert’s enrollment is over 500 students, 80% of whom are eligible for free lunch.  “I see every student in the school in my lab every week,” she says.  “Even on the worst days, I feel lucky to be there.”

The Osher Reentry Scholarships were created in through a $1 million grant from the Osher Foundation to the UMKC Foundation in 2010. Each year, 10-15 returning students, ideally age 25-50, receive scholarships to complete their degrees.