Donor’s gift targets at-risk students on Kennesaw State’s Marietta Campus

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 9, 2017

The American Opportunity Foundation provides funds for emergency housing, scholarships

A $45,000 gift from The American Opportunity Foundation will soon provide emergency, on-campus housing and scholarships for students at risk for homelessness on Kennesaw State University’s Marietta Campus.

The gift will support students served through the University’s Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment Center (CARE) Services, a program that assists KSU students who are dealing with homelessness, food insecurity or are part of the foster care system.

The Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing for moderate-to-low-income individuals, families and seniors, is also funding annual $3,000 scholarships for an incoming high school senior and an undergraduate student in need. Its gift follows one last year from the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust, which funded the first emergency housing unit on the University’s main campus in Kennesaw.

“This gift is an answer to a truly unmet need at the Marietta Campus,” said Marcy Stidum, director of CARE.  “Our program struggled many days to locate housing for the homeless students we serve there. Never did I think we would have a chance to provide a second apartment at the Marietta Campus the very next year. I am honored and thankful that American Opportunity Foundation would want to invest in the lives of our students.”

CARE Services apartment

The two-bedroom apartment at the Marietta Campus will provide a temporary two-week residence, allowing CARE time to work with the student, and campus and community organizations, to secure long-term housing.

“The American Opportunity Foundation is honored to be partnering with the CARE team to provide emergency housing for students in need,” said Kathryn Walker, vice president of the Foundation. “We hope that this gift will positively impact lives and provide the stability needed for students to complete their education and realize their career goals. It has been truly inspiring to see the passion Marcy has for the students, and realize the impact that she and the CARE team are having on Kennesaw State students.”

The Atlanta-based American Opportunity Foundation was looking for opportunities to partner with local organizations that make a difference in the lives of people struggling to find affordable housing and make a better life for themselves and their families, Walker explained. She learned about Kennesaw State’s CARE Services from her daughter, who is a KSU student.

“In keeping with our Foundation’s idea that affordable housing is more than just a roof overhead, we added the scholarship funds to make enrollment more feasible to homeless students or those aging out of the foster care program who may not have the financial support from family that other students can turn to when in need,” Walker said.

Last fall, Kennesaw State was one of the first in the country to offer dedicated on-campus housing for students in need. The $25,000 grant from the Beacon Foundation, a local charity focused on poverty relief, provided for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on the Kennesaw Campus. 

With the combined funding from the American Opportunity Foundation and the Beacon Foundation, CARE Services will be able to provide four beds – two on each campus – for students at risk of homelessness for the 2017-18 academic school year. Each of the two-bedroom suites are outfitted with bedding and other college essentials that were designed and largely donated by the CARE Services’ Advisory Board Committee member Ashley Russ and interior designer Michele Smith.

Founded in 2011, CARE Services has provided some level of support to more than 500 students. In addition to helping students find housing, CARE Services works with students to secure food and meal plans, get them out of arrears to avoid eviction, provide clothing and locate job openings.

In the past year, CARE provided assistance, through donations from community and campus organizations, to more than 290 students. During the previous year, 25 homeless students stayed in the Kennesaw Campus apartment or in hotels paid for by CARE until long-term housing could be established. In addition, nearly 200 students received food from pantries located on the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses.

Campus and community leaders gathered during a scholarship signing and opening celebration Aug. 9 to officially dedicate the Marietta Campus apartment for the 2017-18 academic year.

– Tiffany Capuano

Photos by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit