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For students in foster care, CFO scholarship offers chance for next chapter

The Alternative Education Scholarship helps bring dreams into closer reach for students like Kaitlynn Sterling.

CFO Scholarships

Scholarship fulfills donors’ goal to support students in foster care

We don’t always know what days, and the moments that fill them, will have the greatest influence on our lives.

For Kaitlynn Sterling, one of those pivotal points came the day she learned that she was the recipient of an Alternative Education Scholarship through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. It’s one of 849 scholarships awarded through the CFO to deserving students during the 2021–22 year.

Each of those scholarships is meaningful for reasons unique to those who led their creation. In the case of the Alternative Education Scholarship, founders Alex and Cathy Primm chose to support students who are currently in foster care or are homeless, and in their last year of high school.

It was a cause close to their hearts, as they have served as foster parents and know the needs firsthand.

“So many former foster children just don’t have the support system that other kids do,” says Cathy. “Many think college is just not for them. We loved the idea of providing school funding for kids who experienced foster care and need to know they deserve what other kids have.”

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Kaitlynn Sterling is in the nursing program at Cox College in Springfield. Her education is supported by the Alternative Education Scholarship, established by Alex and Cathy Primm and administered by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

For Kaitlynn, the money technically furthers her dreams of becoming a nurse — but it ultimately does even more than help fund an education. It offers a new sense of purpose and possibility.

“I was able to show my brothers and my sisters and my peers and adults that we can all do it,” she said in remarks made at the CFO’s Board of Directors meeting in December 2021.

Kaitlynn’s words of hope and inspiration were in contrast to a complicated childhood, which resulted in her entering foster care by age 12.

“I missed being with my family, but knew that being in the system was the best option, and they only wanted to help me,” she says of her foster family.

After learning of scholarships and grants, she began to think about what other options might be out there for her future. Then came the day: That seemingly ordinary day when she learned of the scholarship.

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Kaitlynn Sterling expects to complete her nursing degree in 2023.

“By receiving this, I was able to be proud of who I was and where I came from,” Kaitlynn says. “That no matter where we came from, if you believe in yourself, you can do what your heart desires.”

Those were things that the Primms hoped for when they established the scholarship fund in 2012.

“These kids are great and they deserve a chance,” says Cathy.

Over its decade of existence, the fund has collectively awarded $24,000 in scholarships. The support is renewable for three years, provided the students meet requirements regarding GPA and credit load.

“Hearing and meeting Kaitlynn reinforced all we felt is important about this kind of scholarship,” says Cathy, who attended the board meeting when Kaitlynn spoke. “I cried right along with her. I found her absolutely amazing. She will succeed — we know it.”

By Kaitlyn McConnell, writer in residence for the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

The Alternative Education Scholarship and about 450 others will open for application on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at This year, the CFO will distribute $1.8 million in scholarships to support the education of about 1,000 students, the majority of whom attend colleges, universities or technical programs in Missouri.

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