A group of returned missionary students at BYU has found a way to give back to the country they spent 18 months to two years serving through a non-profit that helps international students receive an education.
Marcus Van Gils, Adam Johnson, Chandler Kallas and BreAnn Duce, all recently returned missionaries from the Singapore Malaysia Mission, created The Small Hill Foundation as a way to sponsor members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to gain an education through the BYU-Pathway, an online education program through Brigham Young University.
The Small Hill Foundation uses donations to sponsor students in Malaysia to attend school online through BYU Pathways with the ultimate goal of gaining a degree or certificate in a specific field, an opportunity many students would not have otherwise.
“In Malaysia, it’s very rare to find someone that’s graduated from college. We are providing need-based scholarships to those who are unable to afford to pay for BYU-Pathway,” Kallas said.
According to Duce, the head of marketing for the foundation, the students returned from their missions with a desire to keep giving back to the country. “Helping them sustain their faith was difficult, especially from so far away, but we decided that giving them an education was the best way to help them,” Duce said.
The students know they are in a unique position of trust with the people of Malaysia and want to leverage this trust by encouraging them to continue their education.
The Small Hill Foundation picks students from Malaysia that want to further their education. All sponsored students are “bright individuals and future scholars that have demonstrated a desire to work hard, grow and succeed,” its website says.
Currently, 27 students are beginning their education with the help of The Small Hill Foundation. All 27 students are first-generation college students from humble backgrounds.
After applying and being accepted, the team at The Small Hill Foundation makes sure the student has access to the internet and a computer and also provides a mentor to guide them throughout their educational experience. The mentors are all people who have lived in Malaysia at some point in their life, have graduated from college, and are now actively working in a career.
The Small Hill Foundation is accepting donations to assist more students in receiving an education. The foundation dreams of having multi-generational families be blessed as a result of their efforts.
“I’m most excited for students to be able to graduate,” Duce said. “They will get to say they graduated, which is something they wouldn’t be able to say otherwise.”