Celebrating 60 Years of Making Students' Dreams Possible
Scholarship America, the nation’s largest private scholarship provider, is celebrating 60 years as an industry leader in making the dream of higher education possible for all students. Since 1958, Scholarship America has touched the lives of over 2.4 million students by distributing more than $4 billion in scholarships and other forms of financial assistance.
“From our very beginning we have invested in student success,” said Robert C. Ballard, president and CEO. “We’ve witnessed first-hand, time and again, the remarkable potential of our country’s bright minds. And we believe investing in their educational success is the single greatest action we can take to help all students achieve their full promise.
“November is National Scholarship Month,” Ballard added, “It is a perfect time to reflect on how students have changed, and how Scholarship America’s work has changed too.”
“Scholarship America was one of the founding members of the National Scholarship Providers Association and National Scholarship Month, and they are a major supporter for scholarship providers in sharing best practices. It continues to be a leader in reaching as many students as possible to gain college access. Scholarship America’s student-centric approach really allows them to evolve in a way that always seeks to meet the needs of scholars. NSPA is extremely proud to have Scholarship America as a supporting member,” notes Jackie Bright, Executive Director of NSPA.
Humble beginnings, huge impact
The Scholarship America story began with Dr. Irving A. Fradkin, an optometrist in Fall River, Massachusetts, who had a simple but profound idea—community-supported scholarships for local students. By 1958, he had raised over $4,000, enough to give four-year renewable scholarships to 24 graduating seniors in Fall River. Dr. Fradkin remained personally involved with and dedicated to Scholarship America until he passed away in 2016 at age 95, and today his legacy remains strong and continues to guide us.
“My grandfather was fond of saying the greatest asset our country has is not oil or gold, but the minds of its young people,” said Jeff Silverman, Dr. Fradkin’s grandson. “He would challenge everyone he met to get involved, to contribute and say ‘yes’ to the future of young people. I am humbled to be a member of the board of Scholarship America, furthering the organization and legacy my grandfather started.”
Dr. Fradkin’s simple premise has grown to nearly 500 volunteer-run Dollars for Scholars chapters across the country. In 2017, 18,635 students were awarded $20.2 million across 30 states through Dollars for Scholars.
By the mid-seventies, companies began asking Scholarship America to work with them in managing their scholarship programs. Today, Scholarship America works with nearly 1,400 corporate, foundation and individual partners, including over 100 Fortune 500 companies.
In 1976, a Minneapolis-based corporation, The Toro Company, became Scholarship America’s first corporate partner. They remain a strong partner today; over the past 42 years, 1,095 students have received $3,361,750 through Toro’s scholarship programs for children of employees.
Scholarship programs for children of employees, like Toro’s program, represent a little more than half of Scholarship America’s partnerships—but our scholarships are as diverse as the students we aspire to serve. Some are renewable (41 percent); others are needs-based (33 percent); yet others are geared for students interested in STEM careers, or other specific fields.
“The variety is amazing,” said Ballard. “There are scholarships for everyone from childhood cancer survivors and students with disabilities, to veterans, children of military families, teachers, aspiring chefs and realtors, and those interested in golf management. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available for today’s diverse students.
“But Scholarship America support of students doesn’t stop at scholarships,” Ballard continued. “We help students who are at risk of dropping out of college due to financial struggles with emergency aid. We help those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and those who lost homes in natural disasters. And we offer coaching and mentoring for students who are struggling. We know many students need additional support and we are solidly focused on helping them succeed.”
The faces of today’s students
Students have changed significantly. Nearly half of today’s diverse college students are 25 years of age or older. Some are attending college for the first time while others may be returning to advance their career or re-train for a new opportunity. Many students hold full-time jobs and a substantial proportion are parents. Others are the first in their families to pursue higher education.
Celebrating and partnering for greater student success
Scholarship America celebrates the students receiving the Dream Award at its annual Dreams to Success dinner and celebration each May. The event brings together passionate supporters of education and students from across the country. “A Meeting of Great Minds,” Scholarship America’s Partner Summit, was added to Dreams to Success in 2018. Scholarship and education partners shared best practices, learned from one another and networked.
Terrorist attacks and natural disasters call for unique responses
Within days of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund was established to provide higher education assistance to the family members of those killed or permanently disabled as a result of the attacks. Scholarship America was called upon to design and launch a scholarship program for the families of the 9/11 victims. To date, the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund has distributed over $151 million to 3,500 students, with another 2,500 students to be served before the Fund sunsets in 2030.
“I was 12 when my father died on 9/11. After his death I struggled. My years in college really changed my life. When I realized my tuition would be paid for, I felt I had the obligation to the people who invested their time and money for my education to do well. These people believed in me …”
Joe Palombo, Families of Freedom Scholarship recipient and member of Scholarship America’s Board of Trustees.
Natural disasters can also be devastating. In 2005, Scholarship America responded to Hurricane Katrina by establishing a National Disaster Relief Fund to help students whose lives were turned upside down stay in school and continue their education. The Fund continues today, most recently helping students impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Scholarship America today and into the future
The Scholarship America team is seasoned, experienced and strong. Program managers average seven years with Scholarship America and the partner solutions staff have 155 years of combined financial and educational experience.
“I am particularly proud of the extraordinary personal service our staff provides students and partners,” Ballard said. “They are supported by solid, reliable technology monitored 24/7 by cybersecurity experts. No data has ever been lost and we never sell student information.
“A high school degree used to be sufficient for many careers,” Ballard noted. “No longer – the majority of jobs today require some sort of additional training, certificate or degree beyond high school. Scholarship America can help. We’ve been helping students achieve their dreams for sixty years, and we are not done yet. We will be here, helping students for many more years to come … you can count on it!”
The Dream Award
In 2011, journalist and author Katie Couric donated to Scholarship America the proceeds from the sale of her book, The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives. Those funds launched Scholarship America’s Dream Award—our renewable scholarship program for college students with financial need. These remarkable students have overcome significant barriers to successfully start their education, but need ongoing scholarship support to achieve their degrees. In addition to financial aid, Scholarship America provides coaching and support for Dream Award students through EduGuide. Since the program’s inception in 2014, 64 students have received over $1 million in Dream Awards, averaging $10,000, to help them stay in school and complete their education.
“Getting an education changed my world, it changed everything about my life.”
– Amanda Condon, 2016 Dream Award recipient
“The (EduGuide) modules helped me learn the importance of self-motivation, how the brain functions and how to apply what I learned. I find myself studying smarter and continuing to persevere even when times seem tough.”
– April Lewis, 2017 Dream Award recipient
“Thank you for investing in my dream, education and future.” – Jacoby Barry, 2018 Dream Award Recipient
Gearing Up for #GivingTuesday
November is National Scholarship Month and Tuesday, November 27 is #GivingTuesday—what better time to get involved and support our students?
“Possible Starts Today” is our reminder that it is never too late to support students seeking to achieve their dreams. From coast to coast Scholarship America will put our mission to action through social media, email and outreach by community volunteers. Our mission will come alive through our students’ dynamic stories, statistics about our impact and a series of inspirational videos. You will not want to miss the opportunity to participate in our #GivingTuesday festivities—especially during one of our power hours, when your contributions will be matched dollar for dollar to double your impact!
Contributions of all sizes help make the impossible possible for students. Please help with a #Giving Tuesday contribution on Tuesday, November 27 and encourage your friends and family to give as well. Questions? Email Ben Smith, Director of Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 8 Basketball Blockbuster Supports Families of Freedom
Don’t miss the 3rd Annual Never Forget Tribute Classic Benefiting the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund at Prudential Center, Newark, NJ. It’s an amazing NCAA Men’s Basketball doubleheader featuring the Florida State Seminoles vs. the UConn Huskies and the Clemson Tigers vs. the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Both games will air on ESPN2.
The Never Forget Tribute Classic supports Scholarship America’s Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which was established within days of the attacks and has provided more than $150 million in scholarships to an entire generation of financially-needy dependents of those killed or permanently disabled in the attacks and their aftermath.
This year, the Families of Freedom Fund will benefit by receiving a bonus for each ticket we sell, so please consider using this as an opportunity to purchase tickets for your employees, clients, families or friends and spread the word about this event as broadly as possible!
Use the code FREEDOM when booking tickets to ensure the Families of Freedom obtain the benefit of your booking. To obtain special pricing on blocks of 10 or more tickets, please select ‘Get Group Tickets’ and then scroll down to the Never Forget Tribute section.
Scholarship America Mourns the Passing of Lester "Les" Kretman
Lester “Les” Kretman, a member of Scholarship America’s National Advisory Board from 1992 to 2008, passed away September 15 at the age of 76.
He was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts and was one of Scholarship America’s earliest scholarship recipients (1959-63). Kretman worked as a broadcast journalist at WGBH, WBZ, and WHDH in Boston, Massachusetts before working at NBC News for 30 years, including ten years as White House Producer.
Keep Connected With Scholarship America
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Show your support by subscribing to our Success By Degrees blog and by liking and following our Facebook and Twitter pages, then tell others to do the same. And by sharing our posts, you’ll be giving valuable scholarship advice to the students in your life.
We also invite you to volunteer at the local or national level. Search for your local Dollars for Scholars chapter here. Our volunteers come together in communities across America to work on behalf of local students – and they’re always looking for more help!
Finally, your monetary gift makes a huge difference in the lives of students. Education makes students' dreams possible -- and your gift makes it happen.