Kanakuk Link Year is a program of Kanakuk Ministries founded by Adam Donyes in 2011. The program served 67 enrolled students over the fall and spring semesters of the 2018-2019 academic year. The program promotes itself as a “gap year” option to students who have graduated high school but are not yet ready for or accepted into colleges and universities.
Link Year’s website indicates that they have been granted exemption as a religious school in the state of Missouri by the Missouri Department of Higher Education. While Link Year only recruits high school senior and post-grad athletes currently, Donyes shared that non-Christians are not excluded from admission and that they hope to open a high school in 2022.
Kanakuk Ministries’ and Adam Donyes share contrasting descriptions of the program’s goals:
- Kanakuk’s Description – “Biblical Training”
- Kanakuk’s most recent IRS tax form 990 describes Link Year as “a gap year program with college credit, individualized mentoring, focused discovery of spiritual gifts and identity, spiritual growth and Biblical training for college, and encouragement toward world and community impact.”
- Kanakuk’s website describes Link Year as “a nine-month program for 19-20 year-olds designed to build a solid Biblical foundation within each student.”
- Adam Donyes’ Description – “Basketball Prep School”
- In a podcast interview, Donyes (a former basketball player at Boise State) explains that Link Year was founded in response to his dream to create a basketball prep school, with the goal of connecting unsigned high school basketball players with NCAA Division I opportunities. Link Year academics were developed in response to advice he received to “get the academics in order first” in order to create a successful basketball prep school.
- In another interview, when asked, “What does success look like to you and why?” Donyes responded, “My goal is to help boys become young men of character and also help them change the trajectory of their lives by assisting them in getting full-ride scholarships to get their college tuition paid for. Wins are merely secondary to that!”
Another contrast exists in the explanation of whom Link Year recruits as athletes for its basketball teams:
- Joe White has explained that the Link Year basketball team is used to minister to “inner city … or urban county situations who have DI promise” and its purpose is to allow students to “grow in their faith and leadership skills.”
- Donyes has shared his story of using basketball to serve urban youth during his career preceding Link Year as the co-author of Win By Two (with forward by Lecrae) and as a subject of the documentary Dave. He has shared a different story to explain the recruitment of basketball players for Link Year. Donyes explained that he started recruiting athletes through his college basketball fraternity or through Kanakuk Kamps, but now finds most of his students via Division I coaches who have athletes in need of a prep school due to low test scores or a lack of available spots on their teams.
Link Year athletes are not charged any fees but Link Year participants who do not play basketball are charged $15,000 in tuition, with some scholarships available. Donyes explained that they “are one of the few post grads that offer kids full-ride scholarships to come to our program […] the Kamps help us manage to do that with how much revenue we bring in to Kanakuk Kamps.” While both tuition-paying students and athletes are students of Link Year, the alumni group photos oddly do not include the athletes.
Link Year has three basketball teams: Link Academy (an elite high school team), PG Regional (a post-grad team that travels regionally), and PG National (a post-grad team that travels nationally and internationally). The Link Hoops website denotes that Link Year alumni include 38 active DI players and two professional players.
Joe White and Adam Donyes’ relationship far predates Link Year. In a joint interview, Joe White and Adam Donyes described how they met. Adam Donyes was welcomed into White’s dressing room following one of his speaking engagements. Adam was a college student at the time. Joe White explained that “as soon as he looked Adam in the eyes,” he “knew that he needed to be… in his life.” Joe White and Adam exchanged letters until Joe invited Adam to Kanakuk where Joe explains that they “just fell in love” and built an “adopted father/adopted son” relationship.
In addition to their work together through Kanakuk, Donyes and White serve together at Woodland Hills Church alongside other Kanakuk leadership including Doug Goodwin (President/COO of Kanakuk Kamps). On their 2018 IRS 990 tax form, Kanakuk Ministries reported a $10,000 grant to Woodland Hills Church that was not listed in their disclosed conflicts of interest.