Children of federal workers who were killed in the 9/11 attacks have a full ride to college, courtesy of a special scholarship established especially for federal families by the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund.
But Robyn Kehoe, the director of field operations at FEEA told Federal News Radio the program was actually born from a separate, earlier tragedy.
In the aftermath of the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, “the outpouring of aid for the federal employees who were affected there was well beyond the immediate needs of the family,” Kehoe said. “And we decided the best thing to do was to create a scholarship fund to pay for those kids to go to college.
Similarly, the donations following the 9/11 attacks, which Kehoe said was an “enormous outpouring”, once again outpaced the immediate needs of the families.
“In a very unfortunate sense, we were happy that we knew what to do in that type of situation,” she explained. “We knew how to be helpful to families. But we hope we never have to test that skill again.”
FEEA provided about $400,000 in immediate aid to families of those affected by 9/11, she said, and invested several million dollars in the education of about 50 children.
The youngest child was 18 months old when she lost her mother at the Pentagon, Kehoe said, so the group knew it had at least a 20-year mission ahead of it.
“We wanted to make sure that before we made the promise to anyone we could make it everyone,” she added.
All of the participants in the program were children of those killed in the Pentagon — not by design but simply by circumstances, Kehoe said.
“And as the kids get to be college age, they have a full ride,” she said. “Wherever they get in, wherever they want to go, ” FEEA pays for tuition, room and board, books and, even, travel in some cases, she added.
It’s not simply the money, but also the peace of mind that helps students, Kehoe said.
“I think, for them, knowing that the funding is there however long it takes them to complete that undergraduate degree is a very reassuring piece — it allows them to deal with the personal issues that they need to deal with so that they can go on and be successful in school.”
As the 10-year anniversary approaches, the fund is stable and not in need of money, Kehoe said.
But she cited an “everyday” need for many federal employees.
The general emergency assistance that provides assistance to federal on a day-to-day basis, has tripled in the last three to five years.
“And one of the things that we’ve been seeing more and more is that federal employees are just as impacted by the economy as everyone else,” she said.