Former Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson and his wife have created a scholarship at Wichita State University to help immigrant students.
The couple donated $200,000 to launch the Mark and Stacy Parkinson Scholarship for First Generation Immigrant Students.
Parkinson, a WSU graduate, served as governor from 2009 to 2011, replacing Kathleen Sebelius.
Parkinson said the scholarship will focus on helping those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, sometimes called Dreamers. Most Dreamers were brought to the United States illegally by their parents when they were children. They have grown up here, attending school, but are not citizens.
Parkinson said he feels the debate about immigrants has been overly negative in the last five years. He said he and his wife hope to change the conversation.
“We wanted to not only to make a statement in terms of supporting the university," Parkinson said, "but also make a statement to the immigrants that ... we want to help them out while they’re here."
Parkinson said he thinks that immigrants have helped the United States become a great nation.
“We’ve not only formed a country, we’ve built what I think everyone would agree is the best country on earth and hopefully we can keep it going, but we did that because of immigration," he said.
"We’re all from immigrants and yet somehow as the years have gone by people have forgotten that and all of a sudden it’s an us-versus-them mentality.”
Parkinson said if the fate of children brought to the country illegally is resolved in the future, the scholarship will then open up to all first-generation immigrants.
Scholarship recipients will receive $34,000 over four years for tuition, books and fees. Recipients are expected to graduate in four years.
Audrey Korte is an intern in the KMUW News Lab.