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The Lapan Sunshine Foundation follows the belief of its founder, Patricia “Nana Pat” Lapan, that education is a crucial pathway to overcoming challenging life circumstances. Yet, a student’s journey to success in education requires more than just money to pay for school. Students need a more well-rounded approach that considers their families, their environment, systemic issues and their unique circumstances.

The Lapan Sunshine Foundation provides students from underserved communities with scholarship, mentorship, access to opportunities and support for their often-overlooked additional needs. Our aim is to level the playing field, and empower our students to confidently pursue their dreams.

Additionally, we invest in services, programs and organizations that serve our students and create opportunities for their potential.

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Patricia Lapan - Lapan Sunshine Foundation

Patricia Lapan - Lapan Sunshine Foundation

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Patricia (“Pat”) Lapan, our founder, born and raised in the Bronx, grew up with a strong work ethic instilled by her family. Despite never being the smartest in the classroom, she excelled through hard work and graduated high school early at the age of 17. Financial constraints prevented her from attending college, but she discovered the Cadet Nursing Corps program, which provided free tuition, books, and uniforms. And despite facing anti-Semitism and religious requirements, the program allowed her to enroll at her top choice school, the Waterbury Hospital School of Nursing at Yale University. Pat's passion for learning led her to continue pursuing her education long after she completed nursing school and became a mother of three. After getting her teaching credentials for nursing, she went to night school once a week, studying accounting, economics, business, investment, real estate, and the stock market. She earned her pilot’s license in 1962, and graduated from law school in 1968, at a time when women still faced significant discrimination and barriers to accessing legal education. With her diverse knowledge, she started her own investment fund, successfully managing others’ assets and earning significant revenue for her and her clients. Pat loved to travel, and spent time teaching English in various countries, as well “free market economics” in Poland and Russia. She was a finalist for the SEC Commission under Ronald Reagan, and in 2000, at the request of the Reagan administration, she spent twelve weeks in Ghana helping develop their national security system (and subsequently, Nana’s first Mavin was an exchange student from Ghana.) Amidst all her remarkable achievements, if you asked Pat what she was most proud of in her life, she would say it was the creation of the Lapan Sunshine Foundation in 1989. Pat wanted to make the world a better place, and she knew from her own experience that helping people get an education would be a step in the right direction. She believed education is what allowed her to overcome her circumstances and achieve so much success in her life, and by offering scholarships to others, she could help them to do the same.

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Pat soon realized that giving students money for education was not enough. Without encouragement, guidance, and people they could rely on, most students fell prey to their circumstances, even with access to education. 

In 2004, Pat created the Lapan College Club, a program whereby students at Wakefield Middle School in South Tucson, starting in 6th grade, could begin earning money for college based on their grades. Initially, the Lapan College Club was a place where students could earn scholarships and receive mentoring and tutoring and where parents could find support in helping their kids reach their goals. Over time, the program has expanded to include CE Rose and Hollinger Middle Schools and to offer 14 after-school programs, ranging from robotics to theater, soccer, gardening, and band, to engage students at a young age, encourage their continued education and support and enrich their educational journeys. 

In 2021, the program changed its name to Lapan College & Career Club to better acknowledge that a four-year university degree is not the right path for everyone. We are proud to support our students in pursuing education of all kinds, including trade schools and other professional programs.

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With Nana Pat’s passing in 2012, her son Dr. David Lapan stepped up to become the trustee and figurehead of the Lapan Sunshine Foundation. With his mother’s belief in education deeply ingrained in him, he set out to carry on Nana’s legacy through the Lapan College & Career Club, as well as expanding its mission, overseeing the implementation of Nana’s Mavins, Sunshine Therapy Animals, the Lapan Leadership Summit and the Sunshine Casitas.

Dr. Lapan has loved forming deep connections with many of the Lapan students, providing not only scholarships but mentoring and friendship. He is deeply moved and inspired by their stories and all they must overcome to achieve their dreams and is proud to be a small part of their journey.

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