If you’re on social media in the Wichita area, you immediately noticed when Peter Najera, President of the Rudd Foundation, came to town late last year to lead the organization. He’s been actively promoting the Foundation and its mission while interacting with other area organizations on social media (@PeterNajera1). Give him and the @RuddFoundation a follow and then learn more about why the Foundation considers social media interaction with students and their parents a vital tool for fulfilling their mission.
Please tell us a little bit about the mission of the Rudd Foundation.
Leslie Rudd established the Rudd Foundation in 1998 as a way to honor the Midwestern values that strengthen character and lead to a lifetime of success in business, community, and family. The Foundation gives back in meaningful ways to help both people and organizations who possess the initiative, determination, and capacity to achieve their goals and thereby make a positive impact for those around them. While we give in many ways, our cornerstone initiative is our college scholarship program for Kansas residents to attend Kansas universities.
Why did you join the Chamber and what do you find most valuable about Chamber membership?
As a private foundation, we wanted to get involved with the civic life of the community. Networking with other organizations and their leadership is instrumental in learning where the most need is, and how we might be able to help improve our community.
Describe your organization’s most recent success.
We recently announced our $1.1 million commitment to fund our first class of 20 Rudd Scholars who will receive full-ride college scholarships to attend either Wichita State, Emporia State or Fort Hays State. By removing the financial burden of a college education, we hope to enable high-potential Kansas residents to go to school and upon graduation, start new businesses here in Wichita, teach in our schools and lead in our communities. We think it’s critical to invest up front through a college education to strengthen the talent pipeline of our city and our state so that our economy, and its citizens, can grow and prosper.
To what do you attribute your success?
We are thankful for the advice, support and collaboration from so many in the community to get our scholarship program off the ground and running. From working with our 3 partner universities to all the civic leaders who helped promote and recruit high-potential talent to apply for our scholarship, we’ve been able to convert our vision into a reality in just a few short months and begin making an impact now.
What differentiates your organization from your others in similar spaces?
We will be offering program support to our Rudd Scholarship winners, and not just paying the tuition bills. We intend to foster camaraderie and networking within each annual cohort of scholars, and internships and job placement wherever possible as graduation approaches. Our mission is to enable this young talent to achieve their career goals beyond the classroom.
What value do you expect Chamber membership to bring to you and your organization?
Through our membership, we believe we will be able to keep up with the latest initiatives in our city and better understand our role in helping when the right opportunity presents itself. We also will be counting on the membership to continue supporting our Rudd Scholars, and possibly helping through mentorship, internships, and maybe even a job or career one day!
Where do you see your organization in five years?
Our strategic plans call for us to grow and scale our staff as we grow our scholarship program year on year. In five years, we will be supporting 100 of the brightest, young Kansans in college while we will have our first 20 Alumni working in the community and providing mentorship to those still in school.
What about your organization are you most passionate?
The opportunity to give back to the community is very rewarding, but I think we are all most passionate about helping Kansas youth gain a college education and become productive members of society after graduation.
We enjoy all the social media apps. We connect with most high school kids and administrators through Twitter and Instagram, but we find that most parents still hang out on Facebook and many times they are more interested in our scholarship than their kids (for obvious reasons!)
Favorite business book?
“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. We feel that the best businesses, profit or nonprofit, are led by selfless leaders who take care of their employees first.
Follow the Rudd Foundation @RuddFoundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can find their LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/rudd-foundation/