PULLMAN, Wash. — Ronald McDonald House Charities has pledged up to $225,000 a year in matching funds to Washington State University to increase the number of diversity scholarships available for academic year 2002-2003.

“We are excited to play such a significant role in providing scholarships for the multicultural young people of our state,” said Julie Moyer-Nesbitt, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Spokane. “This opportunity fits perfectly with our mission.”

RMHC of Spokane is best known for its anchor program, the Ronald McDonald House, which provides a home-like environment where children and families from outside the area can stay while the children are receiving medical treatment in Spokane.

The charity will expand this service in the fall of 2003 when they open two custom-designed waiting areas, Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, in Sacred Heart Medical Center’s new Children’s Hospital.

However, this is not the total mission of the charity, said Garry Matlow, assistant director. “We also provide grants to other nonprofit organizations whose priorities are children and families. The students of Washington State University will be beneficiaries of that part of our mission.”

Chuck Young, president of the RMHC of Spokane Board of Directors, said there are advantages to the charity in working with WSU. “Teaming up with WSU on this project is tremendous, as it would be extremely difficult for us to manage scholarships on our own at this level of giving. Partnering with WSU makes this possible.”

Global RMHC makes money available to local chapters for diversity scholarships. In most situations, the chapter is responsible for accepting applications and administering and awarding the scholarships; recipients attend any college or university.

RMHC of Spokane, however, entered into a unique relationship with WSU. The school administers and awards scholarships through systems already in place and all recipients attend WSU. Moyer-Nesbitt is enthusiastic. “We are breaking new ground with this arrangement. Global RMHC views this as a pilot program and is very interested in seeing how it works out.”

In recognition of the significance of this relationship, WSU invited the RMHC Scholarship Committee to the Pullman campus to introduce many of those involved in awarding the scholarships, providing support services, and educating the more than 100 students who will receive scholarship funds from RMHC of Spokane this academic year. A walking tour included a visit with President V. Lane Rawlins, tours of the Chicano/Latino Student Center and the Recording Studio in Kimbrough Hall, and a lunch presentation about the Future Teachers of Color program with Johnny Jones, student recruiter for the College of Education, and Charlene Jaeger, vice president for Student Affairs. Albert and Ellen Eng, owner/operators of the local McDonald’s restaurants, also participated in the site visit.

Even though the scholarship money officially begins with Global RMHC, Matlow stressed the key role that the regional McDonald’s restaurant owner/operators play. “Our owner/operators contribute to the charities in various ways. This is one more way the charities can ‘give back’ to people who live in those communities.”

“We want to recognize our owner/operators at a reception in the fall and introduce them to the students who received our scholarships,” Moyer-Nesbitt said. “It is good for both sides to have that face-to-face connection.”

Washington State University, for its part, is pleased to accept such a generous gift from RMHC. “Scholarships have always been important in enabling quality students to attend our university,” Jaeger said. “But they are of even greater importance in this year of budget cuts and tuition increases. We appreciate this demonstration of confidence, not only in our students, but in WSU.”

Steve Nakata, director of Multicultural Student Services, believes WSU has the infrastructure in place to meet the needs of the scholarship recipients. “Our office provides the mentoring and support services for our underrepresented students, and we coordinate with like-minded programs across campus to create a network that encourages success,” he said.

“Washington State University has diversity as a strategic priority,” Jaeger said, “which, translated, means that our job with the RMHC scholarship recipients — as with all of our students — is to enable them to see that there is a place for them at WSU and that they can succeed. The whole University stands ready to help them do this.”