Tuesday brought the promise of a life-changing day for hundreds of high school students and adult students across the Kansas City metro area, including dozens from Eastern Jackson County schools.

Starting with a morning ceremony at Van Horn High School, representatives from KC Scholars surprised several scholarship winners around the region, arranging for families to be present when the winners walked into the room for short ceremonies.

KC Scholars – a non-profit that originated from the Kauffman Foundation and is dedicated to helping students from low- and moderate-income families with post-secondary education – awarded three different categories of scholarships Tuesday.

Van Horn juniors Roberto Arcia and Joselyn Anzaldo were among those who received traditional scholarships – $10,000 per year renewable for five years at one of the 17 colleges or universities in the KC Scholars network. Alyssa Newby was among the freshmen who received $50 in seed money in a college savings account and was chosen to have matching and incentive opportunities for up $7,000 by the end of high school.

Tameka High, a 35-year-old single mother of three who graduated from Van Horn in 2001, was one of the adult learner winners. Those scholarships – $5,000 per year renewable for five years – went to adults age 24 or older who have at least 12 credits of college and will be enrolled in the fall of 2018.

The sheer number of scholarships awarded – 919 in three different categories – meant only a few could be part of a surprise ceremony. Van Horn alone had traditional scholarship winners. After KC Scholars Executive Director Beth Tankersley-Bankhead revealed the reason for the gathering to the four Van Horn winners, Independence philanthropists John and Nancy Kimak had a chance to congratulate them.

“This is really a defining moment in your lives,” John Kimak said.

Nancy encouraged the winners to “dig deep, think big and rethink possibilities … inhale courage and exhale courage.”

Arcia, Anzaldo and Newby all are slated to be the first-generation college graduates in their families, and in their applications Arcia and Anzaldo said they hope to become a doctor and music therapist, respectively. High said she has an externship left to complete an associate degree before working on a bachelor's in pharmacy. Tuesday's ceremony, she said, marks her first time back in Van Horn since she graduated – “It sure looks different,” she noted – and the KC Scholars award comes at “just the right time.”

In all, KC Scholars awarded 344 traditional scholarships to high school juniors and 137 adult learner scholarships. Of the 438 college savings accounts seeded, 70 students also received the match-and-incentives program.

Traditional scholarship winners at area high schools included:

• Fort Osage: Emily Akright, Jenniece Boone, Ashley Daub, Alexander Deke, Megan Lyon, Joshua Newton, Cynthia Petrosino, Brooklyne Sederwall, Talynn Simer, Heylee Warren, Alesha Weedin

• Truman: Mikayla Dixon, Angelica Johnson, Victoria Xayaphet

• Van Horn: Litzy Alvarado, Joselyn Anzaldo, Roberto Arcia, Jameson Baker, Bryanna Counts, N'Ya Fritz, Paul Hemingway, Ciara Ledesma, Brianna Meier, Tiera Smith, Sierra Yutzy

• William Chrisman: Acacia Tyler

• Grain Valley: Erin Gillihan, John Hodson

• Blue Springs: Kaela Zarrillo

• Blue Springs South: Stephen Swingle

• Lee's Summit North: John Eldridge, Tia Kahwaji

• St. Michael the Archangel: Frances Mitchell

• Oak Grove: Megan Borland, Alex Bryant, Breanne Burns, Zachary Rainbolt, Cody Sanders

Freshmen who received the match-and-incentives program included:

• Fort Osage: Abigail Appling, Rheanne Branstietter

• Van Horn: Alyssa Newby

• Oak Grove: Kashmira Patel