by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Donnelly College’s chapel might be small in size, but the faith it witnesses is big.
Students — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — attend the regular Masses in the seventh-floor chapel.
Masses are part of what makes Donnelly a Catholic experience.
Donnelly College is in the business of making dreams of a higher education come true for students, including many who might not otherwise have this opportunity. One of its own dreams is to one day expand its chapel to serve students for generations to come.
Donnelly is proud of the successes of its alumni, dedicated to the students who are there today, and excited about the opportunities the future holds.
Many Donnelly students are the first in their families to earn college degrees. Some are traditional students; others are returning to the classroom for the first time in years. Each one is important to this college in the heart of Kansas City, Kan.
Students come from near — within a few miles in Wyandotte County — and from increasingly far away.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas sponsors Donnelly College, and the school is on the archdiocese’s radar when it comes to planning for the future.
‘A great testament to the church’
Donnelly is close to the heart of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. After attending the annual scholarship dinner Sept. 14, he said he wished everyone had a chance to hear the students’ own words about what Donnelly means to them.
“It’s a great testament to the church here in the archdiocese,” he told a group of several hundred gathered the following day for an archdiocesan convocation.
Donnelly is unique not only in this community, but nationwide, as an institution that focuses on those who don’t necessarily have the resources to afford a higher education.
That’s one reason the archbishop feels so strongly about the college — and why he has appointed a blue-ribbon task force to study Donnelly’s needs, among others, in light of a potential archdiocesan capital campaign. The process included a feasibility study and has gathered input from across the archdiocese.
Planning for the future
The Steier Group, a development firm based in Omaha, Neb., conducted a capital campaign feasibility study in the summer and fall of 2010, looking at a number of needs across the archdiocese. While the study showed some support for a possible capital campaign, the archdiocese decided to take the year that followed to further study the issues identified by the results.
That blue-ribbon task force has been delving into several key issues, including assistance for Donnelly — in the form of $2 million for capital improvements and $2 million for a student scholarship endowment.
The group’s members have also studied the needs of youth in urban and rural areas, secondary education, and the church in areas that are struggling, as well as other issues. (For more information on this process, visit the website at: www.archkck.org/toughquestions.)
Members of this task force share information with the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and the Case Review Advisory Council. The task force will meet several times between now and the end of the year for discussions and will make its final recommendations to Archbishop Naumann in January.
Donnelly’s extensive strategic plan for its future includes an expanded chapel, a library addition, addressing deferred maintenance, and growing scholarship endowments to keep opening doors to students seeking higher education.
Creating tomorrow’s leaders
Students are quick to tell you the difference Donnelly makes in their lives.
“It’s a great place for traditional students,” said student Sylvester Ayalla, “as well as others like myself that have finished school before, years ago, and are looking to learn some other stuff — maybe pursue some different academic adventures.”
Ayalla, president of the student senate and a student ambassador, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership.
“The staff and faculty is committed to the students,” said student ambassador and student senator Cristal Perez, who is also seeking a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. “They’re also people — people who care about their students, for them to achieve their goals and dreams in life and make them happen.”
Ayalla loves Donnelly and sees signs every day that it is getting even better. He sees the school’s leadership working to make Donnelly a destination.
The archdiocese has placed an emphasis on seeing Donnelly College succeed and has supported Donnelly, he said. Its support has made it possible for a lot to happen there.
“We’re serving people who would not necessarily go unserved, but maybe [be]underserved,” said Ayalla.
He encourages people to get involved. That makes you want to get up in the mornings, he said. If chemistry class is on the schedule for today, you go to class knowing you have something to do when it’s finished.
And Perez loves seeing so much happening right in Kansas City, Kan.
“A lot of students always want to move out to different cities,” she said. “And for me, staying here in Wyandotte County was a way to give back to the community, to be able to contribute.”
At Donnelly, students, faculty and the community can collaborate and see the results.
“Because the youth of today become the leaders of tomorrow,” said Perez.
A brief history lesson
• In 1949, Bishop George Donnelly and Sister Jerome Keeler, a Benedictine Sister of Atchison, saw the need to make Christian education available in the urban core, where many Catholic immigrants had settled. Bishop Donnelly provided the building next to his home at 12th and Sandusky for classes, and the Benedictine Sisters provided the faculty.
• Leaders decided to stay with the original mission of serving the urban community and created an endowment campaign, which helped Donnelly offer scholarship assistance.
• In 1982, Donnelly moved to 18th and Tauromee, the former site of Providence Hospital. That’s where the school still stands.
• Today, Donnelly continues to grow, drawing from the Kansas City, Kan., area, as well as other parts of Kansas, Missouri, and many other locations, serving students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend college. (From www.donnelly.edu)