When Jennifer Keller looks back on her college years, she recalls a financial landscape where students could go to school and work without being saddled with loans. Jennifer believes that isn’t the case today.
“It was possible to put myself through school and graduate without a massive amount of student loans,” Jennifer says. “Now students find they have to live at home and work part time or even full time to avoid accruing a huge amount of debt.”
To ease the financial burden for Cal Poly Humboldt students and honor her parents, Jennifer established the Mary & Foster Keller Endowment in 2012. The endowment created the University’s first-ever Presidential Scholarship and awards student recipients $4,000 annually for four years.
A founding partner at Keller/Anderle LLP based in Irvine, California, Jennifer is an accomplished trial attorney, and a graduate of UC Berkeley and UC College of the Law, San Francisco (formerly Hastings). She is based in Southern California and is actively involved with the University as a board member of the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation.
She attributes her passion for the University to her parents, who lived in Trinidad, California, part-time for 20 years and frequently attended University lectures and concerts.
“My parents loved Humboldt. They appreciated the vibrant arts and culture the University adds to the North Coast. They also loved the idea of public universities.”
The scholarship is awarded to students of exceptional academic merit and financial need. Liberal Studies Elementary Education major Yajaira Hernandez is one of them. She is among 22 students who have received the scholarship since 2012. For Yajaira, that financial support opened doors to a Cal Poly Humboldt education and more opportunities in the years to come.
“I always dreamed of going to college and becoming the first in my family and extended family to graduate from college and go into a career I love and am passionate about,” says Yajaira. “Receiving this scholarship is a huge help and allows me to be a full-time student and helps me get the materials I need in order to succeed in my college education.”
At Cal Poly Humboldt, 43 percent of current students are the first in their families to go to college. The way Jennifer sees it, giving to the University makes an immediate impact. Plus, it’s an investment in students who might not have otherwise been able to pursue their dreams of getting a college degree.
“Humboldt is the perfect institution to support, because your contribution can go a long way. It’s a tremendous bargain. The University is focused on cultivating future leaders who can be part of the solution to social justice and environmental issues, and by giving, donors can be part of those solutions,” says Jennifer, who has committed more than $1 million to the University since 2012, including a recent $500,000 estate gift. “Another reason to give to Humboldt is President Tom Jackson. His leadership has inspired donors. He’s a fountain of ideas and has been the catalyst for transitioning to a polytechnic university. President Jackson has also tremendously improved town-gown relationships.”