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Since 1958, Scholarship America® has played a crucial role in helping students achieve the dream of a higher education. Fifty years after our first Dollars for Scholars® chapter was established in Fall River, Massachusetts – a chapter that’s still with us today – the cost of college tuition has far outpaced the rate of inflation, making the dream of earning a degree beyond the grasp of many families across the country.
Scholarship America supporters are keenly aware of the urgent need for scholarship and tuition support for students across the country. And as student loan debt continues to climb, the work Scholarship America is doing today has never been more important to helping offset the cost of tuition for aspiring college students.
We believe that Scholarship America’s 50 years of experience as a national education leader implores us to lend our voice in the national dialogue regarding the future of postsecondary education financing. In fact, this is critical to the achievement of Scholarship America’s strategic vision: to be the nationally recognized leader in providing private scholarships and other financial support, and to make completing education beyond high school a reality for all.
As part of our effort to turn this vision into a reality, Scholarship America is one of dozens of organizations that have joined the “Higher Ed, Not Debt” Campaign, a multi-year year campaign dedicated to tackling student loan debt in the United States. By partnering with other organizations through the “Higher Ed, Not Debt” Campaign, Scholarship America is seeking to make college more accessible and affordable for all students. Through our policy, research, and advocacy efforts at a national, state and local level, Scholarship America will continue to pursue opportunities like this to ensure that our support of students goes as far as possible.
Max Espinoza, Senior Vice President, Education Programs and Policy, was invited to represent Scholarship America on a panel of four nonprofit organizations at the national launch event earlier this year. In his remarks during the panel, Max highlighted the work Scholarship America is doing in supporting students’ postsecondary goals through private scholarships.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is really an American issue. It’s an issue of the future of our country. And the one question that I continuously get as I travel the country is ‘What are you going to do about the rising costs of college?’” Max said at the “Higher Ed, Not Debt” Campaign launch event. “[Scholarship America has] to be part of the larger conversation—the one that’s taking place today, as well as the bigger conversation surrounding postsecondary financing, in order to ensure that students get the full support they deserve,” he said.
By participating in the “Higher Ed, Not Debt” Campaign, Scholarship America is engaging in one of the most critical higher education issues of our time. In turn, the organization will help get more students to and through college – with little to no debt upon graduation.
Scholarship America’s first class of Dream Award recipients was introduced in a surprise announcement on Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Katie, on May 23. Scholarship America was able to award more than $150,000 in renewable scholarships to our recipients this year, helping turn their dreams into a reality.
Fundraising to support Scholarship America’s Dream Award was spurred by a generous donation from Katie Couric of the proceeds of her book, The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives. Scholarship America began promoting the Dream Award last fall, with an October 28, 2013 launch, also on the Katie show.
Five highly-respected education professionals joined Scholarship America’s president and CEO, Lauren Segal, to select the inaugural recipients of the Scholarship America Dream Award: Muriel A. Howard, President, American Association of State Colleges and Universities; Martha J. Kanter, Distinguished Visiting Professor/Senior Fellow, New York University & Former Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education; Tina Lee, Managing Director, World Journal; Richard Montañez, Executive Vice President, PepsiCo North America; and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, President and Superintendent-President, Long Beach City College.
Scholarship America staff believe in the organization’s mission to help students succeed through postsecondary education, and staff fundraisers are held throughout the year to help support the great work that the organization is doing. Last year, employees raised enough money to provide four students with Student Volunteer Award scholarships.
The Student Volunteer Award (SVA) is Scholarship America’s way of honoring students who embody the volunteer spirit of Dollars for Scholars. Funded by Scholarship America, 20 exceptional students receive $1,000 scholarships, with the national winner earning a $1,000 renewable award for up to four years.
Ethan Dwyer was one of the worthy students who received a scholarship made possible through employee-raised funds. Hailing from Le Sueur, Minnesota, a 10-minute drive from Scholarship America’s St. Peter location, Ethan is a high school senior who has been an active volunteer for his local Dollars for Scholars affiliate, Le Sueur-Henderson Dollars for Scholars.
Ethan holds a wide variety of interests – participating in multiple sports, student council and speech; volunteering for the Le Sueur Food Shelf and other organizations; coaching youth; and mentoring young people. But what he’s most passionate about is music, and hopes to align his passion for helping others with his passion for music when he begins college at Gustavus Adolphus this fall.
“It has been my experience that music brings comfort and hope to others in times of stress and despair. I would like to study this concept, and bring peace to others while I enjoy what I do every day,” Ethan says.
“On behalf of Scholarship America, we are honored to be able to award such a talented and giving young man with this scholarship,” said Lauren Segal, president and CEO of Scholarship America. “Ethan embodies exactly what Scholarship America and our Dollars for Scholars program is about—serving communities at a grassroots level to improve the lives of local citizens from the ground up.”
Read about all of our Student Volunteer Award recipients -- including National Student Volunteer of the Year Helen Montie -- on Scholarship America’s blog, Success By Degrees.
In 2012, Carmen Gil received a life-changing call. She was selected to receive a $25,000-per-year scholarship from the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, one of the largest scholarship programs in the country, which is funded by the General Motors Foundation. As a first-generation college student working and attending classes full time, the award would allow Carmen to continue her STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, worry-free.
It was students like Carmen that prompted the GM Foundation to start the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program in 2011. Although the GM Foundation was already invested in a number of educational initiatives, especially K-12 programming, creating a scholarship program focused on higher education would be a new endeavor.
The GM Foundation recognized the need to run a robust program, and called upon Scholarship America’s Scholarship Management Services (SMS) division for assistance. SMS, which manages more than 1,300 programs for corporations, individuals and foundations, offered the expertise that the Foundation was looking for in administering an education assistance program.
The GM Foundation team wanted to reach a diverse range of students who wouldn’t be able to attend college without financial assistance. The renewable awards would be available to community-minded high school seniors and undergraduate students at four-year colleges, with the majority of scholarships distributed to students majoring in STEM-related fields.
“[Scholarship Management Services] offers us guidance and direct management, as well as review and award processes for applicants,” said Karen Nicklin, manager of Educational Initiatives for the GM Foundation. In addition, she cites the communication with students, schools and teachers as a valuable resource in having SMS administer the program.
With the 2014 application cycle closed, the GM Foundation is gearing up to welcome another inspiring group of students as Buick Achievers. SMS will work with the Foundation to select recipients and disburse awards – all while preparing for another scholarship application year.
Since its inception, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program has awarded more than $16.5 million in scholarships to approximately 3,300 students. Along the way, the GM Foundation has heard from grateful recipients who have been impacted by the program – like Carmen, whose educational future would never be the same.
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