Florida Weekly Column

One Thousand Two Hundred and Twelve Possibilities

This year the Southwest Florida Community Foundation received 1,212 scholarship applications from 304 SWFL students.  It will take 111 volunteer readers to score and evaluate information and nearly $500,000 and 70 scholarships will be awarded.

For every student who receives a yes, others will receive a compassionate no.  Most of these kids will have applied for a multitude of scholarships so we won’t be the only organization sending along both good and not-so-great news.  I give just as much thought to those kids we are not able to help as those we do.

I always take numbers and stats and create stories in my mind.  Although it is important for us to track the numbers, what I begin thinking about is the 304 individual stories that are represented by those applications.  They are someone’s daughter or son with so much hope and possibility in front of them.  They are a single mom returning to school or a first year law student trying to find a way to pay for year two.

Those are the broad strokes I paint but when I read some of the individual essays I get to know the students on a much deeper level.

It is amazing to learn about someone you have never met through a powerful essay.  I am humbled that both teens and adults alike are willing to share some of their deepest struggles in order to create an opportunity for their greatest hopes and aspirations.

I recall when my middle child was writing his personal statement for college applications and scholarships and chose bravely to reveal his seven year struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder.  I had always encouraged him to be bold in sharing his story but I must admit I worried if he would be judged by his transparency.  He wasn’t.  Instead the essay told the story of overcoming adversity to gain strength and perseverance.

The same is true with most all the applications we receive. The students share stories of accomplishments, dedication and personal values.   Our donors have established these scholarship funds to allow a wide variety of students with a broad range of qualifications to consider the possibilities of a future with a post-secondary degree or certification.

These donors join with us to create the opportunities for these students to accomplish their goals.  Not just to start on the road to a degree or career but finish the journey.  It is not just about gaining access to school but also having the resources to complete the program or degree.    Working together we are developing our future teachers, nurses, machinists, business owners, chefs and accountants.    Our job at the Foundation is to match the right student with a scholarship that helps them achieve the vision.

As I am imagining these stories of success I also let my mind wander to the students we didn’t reach.  Those who are finishing up their senior year in a few months who can’t afford their next step, or the adult student who is trying to get back to classes, or the first generation college student trying to become the first one in their family to navigate getting into school, or the student who we never connected with a mentor or information that could change their lives forever.

Our scholarship program not only represents the one thousand two hundred and twelve possibilities of those kids we reached but also the tens of thousands we didn’t.  I want to find a way to reach them.

If you can help us reach them, or if you would like to learn more about creating possibilities for local students through a scholarship fund reach out to me at [email protected]


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