Larae Schraeder ’97 wanted to work at the French embassy in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1995. There was no Kenyon connection inside the embassy, but with help from the Career Development Office she convinced the embassy to agree to a week of job shadowing. Using the French language skills she developed at Kenyon, Schraeder helped embassy staff prepare for a state visit by French President Jacques Chirac, researched the Parisian opera schedule for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and assisted school children learning about Martinique.
“That experience was a powerful supplemental to my job applications. It was an opener to conversations with employers, and it differentiated me from others who only had strong academic records,” she says now.
But this opportunity almost eluded her. Financial support for this kind of job shadow was not available yet, but she made it possible with some luck and the employee rate at a nearby hotel. “Students on financial aid, like I was, need a chance to differentiate themselves, and often they cannot afford to do that. They have to go back home and work at the food stand at the pool just because the short-term need for cash often trumps non-paying educational opportunities,” Schraeder said.
To address these practical needs, she and her husband, Jeffrey, established an endowed fund in 2007 named for her grandparents, The Calvin and Lenice Waugh Endowed Fellowship. It helps students with financial need cover the costs of taking unpaid internships. About half of all internships offered nationally are unpaid.
“This felt like a tribute to my grandparents: a caregiver and a coal miner who did not finish high school. They believed in education and sacrificed to give me diverse opportunities unavailable to them in Appalachia,” Schraeder said.
Schraeder’s experience and her later work as an alumna mentoring Kenyon students showed her, “Getting to Kenyon wasn’t enough. To really succeed after Kenyon, students need a toe hold to get started, and that toe hold shouldn’t depend on luck.”
The gift to create this fund also qualified her for the Fifty Under 50 program in the We Are Kenyon fundraising campaign. The program encouraged young alumni to stretch their resources to make a significant gift, and by the end of that campaign in 2011, more than 50 donors under the age of 50 had committed $8.8 million for a variety of purposes. Schraeder was inspired by hearing Simon Yoo ’91 talk about the program during the kickoff of that campaign.
“This was our first multiyear gift to Kenyon. I had been a continuous giver without thinking about how it added up. And I thought: This could focus our giving in a larger way,” she said.
And the internship focus would maximize the gift’s impact on campus, she thought.
“I didn’t think a few hundred dollars as a scholarship would make much of a difference in attracting a student to Kenyon, but that same investment for an existing Kenyon student to take an internship could change the trajectory of someone’s life. A couple of hundred dollars for airfare and a taxi to job shadow can be impossible for students who must spend the funds buying books for the semester.”
The Fifty Under 50 appeal came in her 10th reunion year, and she had just paid off her student loans. “It felt like the right time to repurpose that money and add to it. I was also at a point in my career where I had started to really draw upon and appreciate my Kenyon experiences. This provided a way to give back,” Schraeder said.
She was a director for Nationwide Insurance, which helped make the Schraeders’ Fifty Under 50 gift possible by providing an unrestricted matching gift in each of the five years they made their pledge payments.
The Fifty Under 50 program identified a new generation of Kenyon leaders. Schraeder became an alumni member of the Board of Trustees in 2018 and returned to campus for the kickoff of the Our Path Forward campaign in October. She met some of the Waugh Fellows.
“The chance to see our gift at work, meeting the students or receiving their thank you letters, also influenced our decision. I still choke up when I read about their experiences,” she said. In the journal Schraeder kept during her week at the embassy, she wrote, “What a wonderful experience I wish everyone could have.” Her Fifty Under 50 gift was one step toward making that a reality.