Bethel Launches the Fight For Something Scholarship

Created in partnership with The Urban Village and Fight For Something, the scholarship supports Karen and Karenni students who attend Bethel University. Applications for 2023-2024 are open until January 31.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, GS'21, content specialist

December 01, 2022 | Noon

From Burma to Bethel event

A growing number of Karen and Karenni students have been finding community at Bethel. On October 18, students hosted an event called From Burma to Bethel to share their stories and pieces of Karen culture with the broader community.

This fall, in partnership with two local organizations, Bethel launched a new scholarship for students from the Karen and Karenni communities. The Fight For Something Scholarship provides selected students up to $10,500 in financial support, renewable for four years. Applications for the next academic year are open until January 31, 2023. 

One of the partner organizations is The Urban Village in St. Paul, Minnesota, which provides a community space for members of the Karen and Karenni communities. The Minnesota Twin Cities are home to more than 20,000 Karen and Karenni people, the largest population outside of Myanmar. Many Karen and Karenni families have fled political violence and resettled in Minnesota—and a growing number of students from these families have also found community at Bethel. 

While the Fight For Something Scholarship was officially launched in fall 2022, its roots can be traced back to 2016. KuGay Nahpay ’20 was a recipient of an early form of the scholarship, facilitated by Bethel alumni Jesse Phenow ’14, co-executive director at The Urban Village, and Carly Miller ’13, Nahpay’s high school volleyball coach. Upon graduation from high school, Nahpay wanted to attend Bethel, but found the cost to be a barrier. She made plans to attend a community college instead, but Phenow and Miller were determined to make Bethel a realistic option for Nahpay.

Phenow and Miller called on their networks and crowd-funded the scholarship. Then, they worked with Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minnesota, to create the scholarship under the church’s name, which allowed them to maximize the funds through Bethel’s church partnership scholarship match program. Together, Phenow, Miller, Christ Presbyterian Church, and their surrounding networks funded scholarships for Nahpay all four years of her Bethel education. 

“Bethel has significantly impacted my view on higher education, and I’m grateful for the support I received."

— KuGay Nahpay '20

“The Lord has blessed me with friends who believe in and see my full potential. In doubt, Jesse and Carly encouraged me to pursue my dream of studying at Bethel,” Nahpay says. “The scholarship helped me tremendously in facing my financial challenges.” 

Nahpay held two part-time jobs throughout her time as a student at Bethel, but the scholarship she received allowed her to focus her remaining time on preparing for her future rather than picking up more work. “Bethel has significantly impacted my view on higher education, and I’m grateful for the support I received,” she says.    

Now, thanks to the partnership of another local organization, Fight For Something, more Karen and Karenni students like Nahpay will receive financial support. Fight For Something, founded by Bethel alumnus Mitch Reaume ’13, is the parent organization of several socially-driven brands that exist to support initiatives like clean water projects and resources for kids. Fight For Something has dedicated a number of its resources to building this scholarship. The MN Christmas Market, one of Fight For Something’s brands, has committed 7% of its profits for the next four years, and a portion of ticket sales from the Northern Lights Festival, another Fight For Something brand, will support the scholarship. Several other Fight For Something brands like Emiliani Coffee and Custom + Kind Screen Printing have been involved as well.

“From where I stand, it feels really important that the Church in Minnesota finds a way to be good neighbors to refugees. This means everyone from churches, to Christian higher education, to small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Reaume says. “Minnesota has the highest number of refugees per capita in the country, which provides an incredible opportunity to display generosity and the kind of love for our neighbor that God intended his people to be known by.” 

With the funds from Fight For Something, The Urban Village approached Bethel leaders about a potential scholarship match. “The response was really cool,” Phenow says. “They said, not only will we match, but we’ll do a two-for-one. For every $3,500 that we raise, Bethel will contribute $7,000.” Bethel and The Urban Village hope to be able to offer the renewable scholarship to 10 new students each year.  

“These students are going to grow into doctors, politicians, engineers, you name it—and they’re going to be changing the geopolitical realities in their homeland.”

— Jesse Phenow '14
While the Fight For Something Scholarship is new for the upcoming school year, Nahpay’s experience offers a preview of the impact it could make. Today, Nahpay works alongside the Karen community as a youth career development counselor for the Karen Organization of Minnesota. “It’s truly an investment that keeps getting invested,” Miller says. “These are students who are going to go right back into their community to serve after graduation.”

Beyond their local community, Phenow foresees the students who receive the Fight For Something Scholarship impacting the global community as well. “These students are going to grow into doctors, politicians, engineers, you name it—and they’re going to be changing the geopolitical realities in their homeland,” he says. “I genuinely believe that.”  

The scholarship is not yet fully funded. Those interested in supporting Bethel’s incoming Karen and Karenni students can give through The Urban Village, contact Bethel’s development team, or consider supporting Fight For Something brands.

Karen and Karenni students at Bethel University

Fighting for our students.

As a university, Bethel’s mission is to make the world a better place by developing servant-leaders and scholars through Christ-centered education. That’s why we’ve partnered with The Urban Village and Fight For Something to help remove the financial barriers our students face. If you know a Karen or Karenni student, tell them about the Fight For Something Scholarship.

Learn more