Even before starting his first day at Butler University, current first-year student Paul Ford was well-versed in what it would take to succeed in college. He knew time management would be key—prioritizing his work and balancing his schedule—but he was also prepared for other parts of the collegiate experience, like preparing for the costs involved with pursuing a degree.

This upfront knowledge is all thanks to his participation with The Center for Leadership Development (CLD), an Indianapolis nonprofit dedicated to fostering the advancement of minority youth in Central Indiana as future professional, business, and community leaders by providing experiences that encourage personal development and educational attainment.

Ford has been involved with CLD since eighth grade, and up until he graduated high school, he participated in a series of programs that aim to prepare students for life in college. The programming culminated in Emerging Scholars, a one-day event where high school students and parents learn about scholarships and other financial aid and are given the opportunity to apply for the CLD scholarship award at a variety of partner colleges, including Butler.

Ford first heard about Butler through a college fair sponsored by CLD where he spoke to one of the University’s admission counselors. After learning more about Butler, he realized that it had everything he was looking for: a vibrant student life, academic programs he was interested in, top notch residence halls, study abroad opportunities, and engagement with alumni.

“Butler really invests in their students,” Ford says. “Because it’s a smaller school, you’re really known by everyone, and you’re able to be really involved. That’s different from a lot of other schools I was looking at.”

Ford knew that Butler was the college for him, and wanted to make sure that it made financial sense for him to attend. During the Emerging Scholars event, he applied for the CLD partner scholarship at Butler (and a handful of other schools), and once he learned he received the award at Butler—a full tuition scholarship for all four years of college—he was ecstatic to know he could make his dream a reality.

Ford is now a first year Entrepreneurship and Innovation major in the Lacy School of Business (LSB) and is involved in the Student Government Association where he serves as the LSB student senator and as a member of the Auditing Board. He’s also active in the Black Student Union, the LGBTQ+ Alliance, and the Efroymson Diversity Center. He knows he’ll continue to grow professionally over his next several years in college, and hopes to have an impact on others and give back to his community. And, once he graduates, he wants to work in the startup management industry, helping support minority-owned businesses withstand crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.