Feb 23, 2013

Community Service pays Big Dividends—In Scholarships

The University of Richmond participates in the Bonner program.

Although service to others should be its own reward, there’s no question that many colleges, organizations, foundations, and businesses are willing to acknowledge outstanding community service by awarding some very generous college scholarships.
These scholarships are targeted to those who have a true passion for service. While many local high schools and school districts require service as part of the regular curriculum, to qualify for a community service scholarship, you’ll need to go above and beyond basic hour requirements.

Scholarship committees will want to see proof of service, hear from references, and have an idea that you are committed to continuing service into the future. Typically winners of these awards began early in their high school careers and dedicate hours weekly throughout the year. We’re not talking about a one-time mission trip to the Caribbean. The kind of volunteerism that wins awards is sustained and heartfelt.

Here are 11 of the bigger national scholarships available to high school students who are deeply involved in community service:
  • Lowe’s Scholarship Program. Lowe’s typically awards 140 $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors who demonstrate a history of commitment to their community through leadership activities, community service and/or work experience. Applications for the 2012-12 program will be accepted until February 28, 2013.. For more information and an online application form, visit the Lowe’s website.
  • Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the largest US recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Over the past 17 years, more than 345,000 students have participated in the program and  more than 100,000 of them have been officially recognized for their volunteer work. In the US, each program year begins in September and online applications must be completed in early November. Note that programs are also conducted in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland, and India, where Prudential has significant business operations.
  • Do Something Awards. Since 1996, DoSomething.org has honored the nation’s best young adult “world changers.” This year, up to five finalists, each of whom will receive a minimum of $10,000 in community grants and scholarships, will be flown to New York and appear on Vh1. One will be selected as the Grand Prize winner and will receive $100,000 in community grants. Applications are due April 15, 2013.
  • Gloria Barron Prize. The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes honors outstanding young leaders who have made “a significant positive difference to people and our planet.” Nominees, who may range in age from 8 to 18 years old, must have been the prime mover of a service activity to qualify for a $2,500 award. Nominations and completed nomination packet must be received by April 30, 2013.  For the first time this year, nominations may be submitted online.
  • Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program. This program recognizes and rewards young volunteers (ages 6-18) who help make their communities a better place to live. This year, more than 2,300 kids will be recognized with over $425,000 in scholarships and prizes. National winners will each be awarded $10,000 and Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit organization on each winner’s behalf. Nominations will be accepted until March 15, 2013.
  • Coca-Cola Scholars Program. Each year, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards over $3 million in achievement-based four-year college scholarships to 250 outstanding high school seniors. Applicants are evaluated on the basis of “demonstrated leadership in academics, school, community and civic activities, as well as personal character and the motivation to serve and succeed. Applications are typically accepted from August to October 31 of the senior year in high school.
  • AXA Achievement Scholarship. Fifty-two winners (one from each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico) are selected to receive one-time scholarship awards of $10,000 each. From this pool, ten national winners are selected to receive an additional one-time scholarship of $15,000. Some of the remarkable accomplishments of AXA Achievers include setting up a food bank, designing a curriculum to get kids interested in science, and founding a nonprofit for young people encouraging community service and civic involvement. To register for information, visit the AXA Achievement website. Information about the 2014 program will be available in September 2013. 
  • Buick Achievers Scholarship. This program rewards students who have succeeded both inside and outside the classroom—a leader in school, a volunteer, or a “community-minded individual.” Up to $25,000 per year for 100 first-time freshman or existing college students will be awarded to students entering qualified five-year engineering programs. One thousand additional students will receive $2,000 scholarships. Priority will be given to minority or first-generation students who show some financial need. Applications are due by February 28, 2013.
  • Comcast Leaders and Achievers Program. Each year, Comcast asks high school principals and guidance counselors to identify students who demonstrate a strong commitment to community service and display leadership abilities in school activities or through work experience. Since 2001, the program has recognized more than 17,000 students and given more than $17.2 million in scholarships. Nominations are generally accepted through the first week in December.  Check with the Comcast website for more details.

  • McDonald’s Educates.  This scholarship honors outstanding high school seniors residing in the greater Washington DC area who demonstrate leadership, character, scholarship, and volunteerism.  This year, 60 recipients will be eligible to receive one scholarship in the amount of $5000 or $1500.  Applications are due by March 22, 2013.

  • Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program.  This scholarship is designed to encourage young volunteers to play active roles in the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) programs. Scholarships can be awarded to any volunteer who is 21 or younger and has volunteered for a minimum of 100 hours at a VA medical center during the previous year.  Students must either be nominated or submit a self-nomination form which includes an essay discussing “What volunteering at a VA medical center means to you.”  Materials must be received no later than March 1, 2013.
Finally, be sure to check the websites of specific colleges to which you are applying as many offer scholarships for volunteerism.  Also check to see if your college participates in the Bonner Scholars Program, which provides opportunities for students with financial need to participate in community service as work-study.

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