Stamford Dollars for Scholars Earns Inaugural Fradkin Legacy Award
By Matt Konrad
In 1958, optometrist Dr. Irving Fradkin envisioned that if everyone in his community gave just one dollar to a scholarship fund, it would be enough to help every student in town attend college. From that simple but profound idea, Dollars for Scholars was born. Today, our volunteer-driven Dollars for Scholars network is a vital part of Scholarship America, awarding more than $20 million in annual scholarships in communities across the country.
This year, to honor our late founder’s vision, Scholarship America created our most significant Dollars for Scholars award to date: the Dr. Irving Fradkin Legacy Award. And today, we are proud to announce the first ever Dollars for Scholars to be honored with the Fradkin Legacy Award. Congratulations to Stamford Dollars for Scholars in Connecticut!
Stamford Dollars for Scholars was chosen from a distinguished group of nominees in honor of its exemplary work in building community partnerships and providing impactful student support – a vital part of our mission to make a college education possible for all students. They will receive $10,000 to advance their student support efforts.
“We are humbled and honored to be the inaugural recipient of this award in a year filled with challenge and uncertainty,” said Bjorn “BJ” Bumactao, President of Stamford Dollars for Scholars. “This award will allow us to invest in the future of our organization through funding different initiatives that will help our students continue to grow and develop in their academic and professional careers.”
“I would like to express my gratitude for all that Stamford Dollars for Scholars does on behalf of students,” said Robert C. Ballard, president & CEO of Scholarship America. “Scholarship America is proud to recognize the dedication of its volunteers and supporters with this national award.”
Since we couldn’t share the good news in person, Scholarship America staff took to a Zoom call to inform Stamford Dollars for Scholars leadership. Here’s the moment when they found out about their achievement.
Raising Funds and Building Connections
Since its founding in 2011, Stamford Dollars for Scholars has sought to do big things for its community. Co-founder Tony Demelio recruited legendary broadcaster Tom Brokaw to spearhead the chapter’s initial fundraising event, and their signature “Tee it Up for Scholars” golf tournament and spring gala events lead a robust annual slate of community involvement opportunities.
Those opportunities also include “corporate challenge” events – friendly competitions in a variety of fields that bring together students, donors and corporate supporters to raise funds and build networks. Thanks to their community-focused fundraising, Stamford Dollars for Scholars has been able to award nearly $500,000 to 327 students, all in less than a decade.
The chapter also recognizes the importance of creating connections before and after the scholarship check. ”We offer volunteer opportunities to high school students — at least half of our events have involved students earning community service credits,” said chapter representatives. “We’ve built particularly successful partnerships with Wright Tech High School and [the] UCONN Media Program for photography and A/V support at specific events. This provides them with resume building experience in their specific field of study.”
In addition, students are included in corporate challenge events, giving them “a unique opportunity to meet and play with local employers and learn about internship and other opportunities in a friendly, laid-back manner.”
Innovating for a New Normal
The COVID pandemic forced schools, companies and nonprofits alike to rethink existing traditions and conventional wisdom. For Stamford Dollars for Scholars, that meant turning their annual 5k into a virtual event, creating a unique crowdfunded scholarship for a first-generation student and coming up with new ways to support students beyond their freshman year.
“A goal of Stamford Dollars for Scholars, given the current pandemic, is to expand our ability to support our recipients throughout their journey through college and into employment beyond our initial scholarship award,” they said. They are focused on multi-year and renewable scholarships; this year, they brought on a college intern to manage their matching gift campaign, providing them with experience and mentorship.
To build on that commitment, the chapter plans to use funds from the Fradkin Legacy Award to create and sustain an alumni network, bringing scholarship and career opportunities to past and present students and keeping them connected through virtual and in-person events.
When Dr. Fradkin founded Dollars for Scholars in 1958, the United States – and the world of higher education – looked much different. It’s a testament to his vision that, more than 60 years later, his community-first model is still supporting student success. And that spirit of vision and innovation makes Stamford Dollars for Scholars an incredibly deserving winner of the first Dr. Irving Fradkin Legacy Award.