Dollars for Scholars gives $50,000 to area seniorsPublished 11:00am Wednesday, May 8, 2013
As tuition prices and expenses associated with attending college continue to rise, the future can be daunting for high school seniors approaching graduation. Dollars for Scholars, however, is making it a little easier.
“It’s about relationships,” Executive Director Nancy Eldredge Hess said. “Many of the donors want to develop and get to know the students. Not only are they getting money, but they are getting community support.”
Started 22 years ago, the Dollars for Scholars organization first gave two $500 scholarships to area students. At last Wednesday’s annual luncheon, the group gave 59 scholarships totaling more than $50,000. Over 22 years, the organization has given $574,000 through 748 scholarships to area students.
For Hess, that milestone shows the dedication of the organization’s board of directors, who often put in 50 to 100 of volunteer hours each over a year.
“I think the community needs to know what a group they have serving them,” Hess said. “It’s not a pie-in-the-sky thing. There are people out there who care about these kids.”
Part of their success can be attributed to the low administrative costs. This past year, the operating budget was only $22,000. With an endowment of more than a million dollars, that means the organization can keep adding new scholarships for students. This year, they added $3,500.
Scholarships are awarded on merit, not need, which makes the organization unique. While they may start awarding scholarships based on need in the future, Hess said they will continue matching students with appropriate donors based on things like grade point average, activities and community involvement.
That aspect of the program offers another unique experience for students. At the luncheon, they eat with their corresponding donor, tell their education plans and get to connect with the person who is helping their future. Hess said the personal aspect of the scholarships is often very moving.
“One donor was in tears because they were so excited when she found out the recipient was a long-time family friend,” Hess said. “She said her late husband would have been thrilled.”
While the effort is often taxing, Hess said the position the organization takes supporting local education is a needed one. As the organization grows, so will the giving options for the community. One future goal is to develop an annual fund for more intentional giving with smaller yearly donations.
“It’s a real beacon in the community. What it does is call attention to our young people and their need to continue education,” Hess said. “It holds up the standard of higher education so anyone who wants to attend college can. I think that is a real responsibility for the community.”