FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A group of Walton College MBA classmates at the University of Arkansas has founded a non-profit organization to help Northwest Arkansas high school students in need as they apply to college and other post-graduation opportunities.

“Student Launch—Northwest Arkansas” is a non-profit organization created by half a dozen Walton students to serve the needs of high school students by removing financial barriers that might prevent them from applying to colleges and other institutes of higher learning. The group provides qualifying students with financial aid to cover the cost of college application fees, trade school application fees, and study materials and registration fees for standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT.

Chairwoman Abby Roberts said that the idea began with a professor’s simple instruction in a Business Leadership and Ethics class that the group shares: “1. Find something good to do and 2. Do it.” The project’s initial idea, to help a Peruvian cacao bean farmer import his chocolate into the United States, came to a standstill.

The group then got together and came up with the idea for Student Launch.

“Cost is the number one barrier to higher education,” Roberts noted. Four of the founders are part of the Walton MBA Mentorship program and they work with Springdale High BIT Academy students who helped them realize that there is a need in the Northwest Arkansas community for “a non-profit that eliminates financial barriers for high school students to higher education.”

We knew we could minimize, if not eliminate the first set barriers that Northwest Arkansas high school students face when applying to higher education. As a group, we brainstormed different ideas about what eliminating these barriers will look like, how we can eliminate these barriers, and who we can eliminate these barriers for. After that brainstorming session, Student Launch – Northwest Arkansas was founded.

Abby Roberts, co-founder and chairwoman, Student Launch – Northwest Arkansas

Springdale High students involved with the UA mentors have been very appreciative of the interactions.

“It’s been a very great opportunity,” said senior Hannah Callahan, who added that she has had about four meetings with them, including a tour of the university.

“Our mentors have really engaged us to work together and to work as a group,” added senior Rachel Flores. She said that the Walton mentors have helped with everything from touching up their resumes to helping them build LinkedIn profiles.

Teacher and group advisor Josefina Perez is thrilled about the opportunity that the non-profit presents for current and future Springdale students.

“It is wonderful,” she said. “I think we are very lucky to have been selected. All of the mentors are really helpful and encouraging.”

The process of starting the non-profit was “a little more complex than we expected,” Roberts said. The group enlisted the services of a local attorney to help with things like filing articles of incorporation and filing for tax-exempt status. The organization is fully registered as a 501c3 non-profit.

“Managing the non-profit while being full-time students is no small task,” said Roberts. “But knowing that we are going to make a difference in the lives of young students makes the work so much easier and more fun.”

The non-profit’s website is available here and it has more information about the programs as well as a link for students to apply for assistance.