Nov 30, 2019

Community service pays big dividends

Christopher Newport offers scholarships based on leadership

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 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 some of the more notable national awards programs available to high school students who are deeply involved in community service:

Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.  The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the largest US recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Since 1955, more than 130,000 middle and high school students have been 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, India, China and Brazil.

Do Something Awards. has awarded $1.2 million in scholarships in the past 6 years to over 300 winners, who are selected by random drawing. Deadlines vary.

Barron Prize.  The Barron Prize honors outstanding young leaders who have “organized and led an extraordinary service activity which has clearly benefited other people or the planet we share.” Applicants must be between 8 and 18, to be eligible for a top prize of $10,000. Applications must be received by April 15. 

Coca-Cola Scholars Program.  The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to graduating students who are recognized for the capacity to lead and serve as well as their commitment to making a significant impact on their schools and communities. Each year, 150 Coca-Cola Scholars are selected to receive this $20,000 scholarship. Applications are typically accepted from August to October 31 of the senior year in high school.

AXA Achievement Scholarship.  This scholarship provides over $1.4 million to high school seniors residing in all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. Students have the opportunity to receive a $2,500, $10,000 or $25,000 scholarship by thoughtfully conveying how they identified and challenge and volunteered to strengthen their community through service.  Applications are currently being accepted through December 15, 2019.

Comcast Leaders and Achievers Program.  Comcast Leaders and Achievers are high school students who have been selected for their outstanding community service, academic performance and leadership skills. The award is a one-time, $2,500 scholarship to be used toward undergraduate education-related expenses.  Applications are due December 6, 2019.

Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program.  This scholarship is designed to encourage youth volunteers to become active in service to veterans. Scholarships will be awarded in the amounts of $20,000, $15,000, $10,000, $7,500, and $5,000. The scholarship is open to volunteers age 21 or younger who have contributed a minimum of 100 credited hours. Applications will be accepted from May 1, 2019 through February 28, 2020. 

GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program. This program rewards college-bound student who demonstrate “exemplary leadership, drive, integrity and citizenship.” Numerous recipients receive a $10,000 scholarship renewable for up to an additional three years or $40,000 total per recipient. Applications are due by January 3, 2020.

President’s Volunteer Service Award.  The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation recognizes significant contributions volunteers make nationwide. The award is offered at the bronze, silver and gold level depending on the number of hours of volunteer service completed.

Burger King Scholars Program. Under the “general track” program consideration will be given to each applicant’s academic record (50%) and participation in school and community activities (50%). Up to 3 scholarships of $50,000 will be granted to the most highly qualified students demonstrating leadership, substantial work experience and financial need. Applications are due on December 15, 2019.

Brower Youth Award.  These scholarships are awarded to “youth environmental change leaders” between the ages of 13 and 22. Each of 6 winners receives a $3,000 prize, along with a professionally-produced short film about their work.  The 2020 application cycle will open early next year with applications due in late spring.

Davis-Putter Scholarship.  These awards go to students who are actively working toward social justice. Winners are chosen for their social activism and demonstrated financial need. Scholarships vary in amount but the top award is $10,000. Applications must be submitted no later than April 1.

Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholarships. Offered by the Sodexo Foundations to students between the ages of 5 and 25, these awards go to individuals who have demonstrated an on-going commitment to their community by performing unpaid volunteer work eliminating hunger. Recipients receive a $5000 scholarship for their education and a matching grant in their name for the hunger-related charity of their choosing. Applications must be submitted by December 5, 2019.

Point Foundation Scholarships.  Applicants must have a proven record of leadership and community involvement, strong academic achievement and be working for the betterment of the LGBTQ community.  Applications are due by January 27, 2020.

National Honor Society Scholarship. Since 1946, more than $15 million has been awarded to outstanding NHS senior members. The pillars of the NHS—scholarship, service, leadership and character—are the selection criteria for reviewing applicants.  In 2019-20, 600 outstanding NHS high school seniors will be granted a total of $2 million. Applications are due by December 6, 2019.

National Caring Award. The Caring institute grants several National Caring Awards to individuals who are role models with extraordinary dedication to community service. To receive the $2,000, young adults must be nominated before graduation from high school or before their 18th birthday.

Finally, be sure to check the websites of specific colleges to which you are applying as many offer scholarships for community service, volunteerism or leadership. 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. 

Nov 27, 2019

Some excellent reasons college freshmen look forward to Thanksgiving

A year ago, their lives were quite different. Many were camped in their rooms stressing over colleges and completing applications that would determine the direction of their lives for the next four years. And everything about the future seemed a little uncertain and scary.

But what a difference a year makes! With two or three months of campus life behind them, college freshmen will be returning home in droves for Thanksgiving break with the family and sleeping in their own beds for the first time in as many months.

Not surprisingly, they may have more on their plates than turkey and mashed potatoes.

First, there's the sudden readjustment to house rules.  

It’s no secret that college freshmen tend to take full advantage of their newly-acquired independence. Curfew may be a concept they no longer care to understand. Weekends start on Thursday and end when they wake up Sunday afternoon.

But now that the family is back together, Mom is really excited about reconnecting and continuing a dialogue that abruptly stopped several months ago.  And this is a dialogue the average freshman might prefer to side-step, especially if it focuses on acting in mature and responsible ways.

Dad expects the returning family member to fall back into the rhythm of the household and re-assume their role in the family.  Remember you're still in charge of the trash and your sister continues to need a ride to her violin lesson.

There will be no less than a thousand questions about what you've been doing and who you've been doing it with. In short, they’ve missed you more than you’ve missed them!

And chances are good that a failing long-distance relationship will end over Thanksgiving break.  

In fact, so many freshman couples split over Thanksgiving weekend that college administrators have dubbed the phenomenon “Turkey Drop” or more to the point, “Turkey Dump.”

But absent any pending romantic traumas, the average college freshman may actually be a little homesick and welcome the tender loving care that comes with a few days at home.

And while Mom’s cooking and a clean bathroom rank high on the lists of reasons why freshmen look forward to the holiday, it might surprise prospective college students how much life changes and why home looks pretty good after a couple of months in a residence hall.

For those who wonder, here are some excellent reasons college freshmen look forward to coming home for Thanksgiving:
  1. A student ID will not be required to get in the house or gain access to your bedroom.
  2. As long as mom is in charge, you probably won’t run out of clean underwear.
  3. You don’t have to pole vault into a bed lofted 2 feet above your head.
  4. Dad is not likely to schedule a midnight fire drill or set off the smoke detector for fun.
  5. No one will want to borrow your class notes, calculus book, or iPad.
  6. The house won’t constantly smell like burnt popcorn or dirty feet.
  7. You won’t be sleeping on the common room sofa because your roommate is “entertaining.”
  8. There’s no need to wear flip flops in the shower or worry about who might have used your soap.
  9. A family member most likely will take your clothes out of the dryer—not some totally disrespectful stranger.
  10. There won’t be any surprise fire and safety inspections.
  11. No one will walk off with your shampoo.
  12. Your sheets will have been washed within the past two months.
  13. There will be no mandatory floor meetings.
  14. You know it’s your hair in the drain.
  15. The kitchen won’t close early on Fridays and weekends.
  16. You won’t be expected to carry on a conversation with a person in the next stall.
  17. Laundry facilities may be available other than between 3 and 4 am; quarters or forms of electronic payment should not be required.
  18. There’s not much possibility of locking yourself out of your room.
  19. Family members usually remember to flush.
  20. Access to a car could be within the realm of possibility.
  21. You don’t have to put on a coat and trek across the lawn in the freezing cold for breakfast.
  22. The party down the hall probably won’t go on all night.
  23. The furry creature under your bed is most likely the family cat and not a 3-month accumulation of dust bunnies.
  24. It’s unlikely that anyone in your family will bang on your door after midnight and want to “talk.”
  25. Earplugs won’t be necessary to block out your roommate’s loud music, snoring, and/or video games.
And for better or worse, Thanksgiving dinner will not be served on a slightly damp green plastic plate.

Welcome home to all those who are fortunate enough to get there!

Image from Jelene's Photostream on Flickr

Nov 24, 2019

15 creative ways teen entrepreneurs can serve their communities

Not everyone is a “joiner.” More entrepreneurial students may prefer to think outside the box when it comes to creating volunteer activities or devising ways to serve their communities. And with the support of social media to reach your market, many of these projects are easier than ever.

With a little imagination and willingness to tackle tasks others find boring or difficult, you can show initiative, reveal business acumen and hone managerial skills—qualities colleges value and others appreciate.

And you can do some good.

Consider a few ideas:

1. Establish a donations program. Most nonprofits and churches need in-kind donations such as books, school supplies, athletic equipment or art materials. One local high school student collected used children’s books. She donated most but sold others through a yard sale, the proceeds from which she donated to a nonprofit.
Hint: Use social networking sites to get the word out.

2. Begin a tutoring service. Reach out to organizations serving younger children or look within your immediate community to volunteer your services as a tutor. You can even put your high school foreign language training to good use by working with English as a Second Language (ESL) students and adults.
Hint: Teaching others will help sharpen your own skills.

3. Be an entertainer. Gather friends and create a traveling road show appropriate for venues such as senior centers or summer camps. Clowns, musicians, jugglers and amateur magicians can put their skills to good use in these kinds of ventures. One local high school band volunteered to be the entertainment at a “prom” for disabled adults and was wildly received.
Hint: These projects can evolve into great business opportunities for a fledgling rock group or for the budding thespians among your inner circle of friends, and if you can't perform, you can always be the manager.

4. Develop a curriculum. It can be as simple as kitchen science experiments or as comprehensive as one local student’s work on environmental issues which she developed into an educational program for elementary school children. Do some research, put together a project, and then approach organizations looking for activities or presentations to supplement their own.
Hint: Summer camps and afterschool programs are particularly receptive to scheduling special events or classes for campers.

5. Plant a community garden. If you have a green thumb or love spending time in a garden, consider planting a “community” garden in which you grow fruits or vegetables for donation to a food bank—either from the products themselves or proceeds from sales of products. Plots may be rented through various community groups and nonprofit organizations or you can set aside dedicated space in your own backyard.
Hint: Any garden can double as a research laboratory for investigating niche science fair topics ranging from fertilizers to pest control.
6. Support a child care center. Read stories, develop art projects, coach easy sports concepts, or create a movement or stretching class. Share your knowledge and skills to enrich the program as well as provide relief to teaching staff.
Hint: Inner city programs serving low-income children are in particular need of support.

7. Use your computer skills. This can be as complex as offering to make or maintain a website for a local nonprofit or as simple as providing one-on-one support to an early learner or a senior citizen.
Hint: Many seniors want to set up internet accounts to connect with old friends and family but simply don’t know how.

8. Write for a local newspaper. Submit an article on how students give back to their communities. Describe your experiences, interview local volunteers or volunteer organizations, or promote upcoming events.
Hint: Published articles may be attached to or appears as links on resumes and college or scholarship applications.

9. Create a blog. One local student developed a blog on her experiences living with cerebral palsy. Her suggestions and thoughtful commentary received responses from all over the country. Blogs are not difficult to create, and they can reflect a range of experiences, interests, or expertise.
Hint: Well-written and maintained blogs can be of great interest to application readers and also may appear as links on resumes and applications.

10. Establish a recycling service. Offer to pick up recyclables and get them to the proper facilities. This project will require familiarity with local rules and regulations, but knowing how to dispose of cans of old paint or how to recycle single-use batteries through mail-in or take back programs can be enormously important to saving the environment.
Hint: Promoting the availability of these services through social media can help raise community awareness of the importance of properly disposing of toxic and other materials and could evolve into an effective public service campaign.

11. Decorate for the holidays. Provide a little holiday cheer by gathering a group of friends who can untangle holiday decorations and don’t mind standing on ladders. This is a great way to bring the gift of light into the lives of those around you, particularly the elderly and disabled.
Hint: Solicit donations of new, more energy-efficient lights from individuals and organizations committed to environmental causes and publicize their support for your initiative.

12. Adopt a Highway or a Street. Although rules vary by jurisdiction, most states will allow families and small independent groups to adopt highways. And many municipalities have street adoption programs. In Virginia, one member of the group must be 18, but the work crew can have members as young as 10. The adopting group will be asked to make a commitment to pick-up litter several times per year from an assigned segment of highway in return for training, equipment, and trash bags.
Hint: Come up with a creative name for your group and write about your experiences or the kinds of trash you’re gathering (see numbers 8 and 9 above).

13. Be an Etsy retailer to support a cause. A couple of years ago, a local student used her sewing skills to make simple sundresses she marketed over the internet. She designed the dress, set up a website, obtained fabric donations, and solicited sewing help from friends. All proceeds were donated to charity.
Hint: This young lady had no trouble getting into college.

14. Establish an online store. If you’re not particularly creative or don’t have a handmade product to sell, you can go the re-sale route. Collect donations of small, easy-to-ship items no longer useful to their owners but which might have value on Ebay or similar online retail outlets. Make sure your customers know their purchases will be used to support a nonprofit activity or organization and don’t forget to figure shipping into your price!
Hint: Items which aren’t sold may be donated to charity or otherwise recycled with local nonprofits.

15. Provide services for shut-ins. There are folks in your community who could use extra help but can’t afford to hire a professional service. Offer to be a companion, run errands, walk the dog, pull weeds, shovel snow or organize the garage.
Hint: You can support your volunteer effort with a paid enterprise marketed to those interested in “renting a kid” in your neighborhood.

Some activities can have lives beyond the summer. They evolve into long-term service learning projects or new clubs at school.

Be creative and industrious, but feel free to have a little fun too.  

This is the second in a series of three articles on the value of community service.