We had created a scholarship program for single mothers with dependent children at our local community college, funded by an endowment created by my husband’s parents. It was designed to assist single mothers start new lives after death, divorce or loss of their partner through other circumstances, and we had created it with my mother’s experiences in mind.
I knew that if something like that had been available for her, our lives could have been changed for the better when I was a child.
Success is empowering, and after years of reading the application letters and thank you letters from these women, it occurred to us to think of another group of people we could assist in a similar way.
I was President of the Board of Directors of the Seedling Foundation, and we had started a mentoring program a couple of years before that pairs highly trained and supported community volunteers with schoolchildren who have a parent in prison. Seedling’s Promise serves Pre- Kindergarten-8th grade primarily, although the matches are supported through high school.
We thought, “What if we gave scholarships at the end of middle school?”
Would it make a difference if these children entered high school with a college scholarship already in their back pocket?
Would they see themselves differently? Would others see them differently?
We have been giving $5,000 scholarships to 8th graders since 2007 and our second group of Seedling’s Promise Graduates will take us up on our promise this month as they graduate from their high schools and proceed to their universities.
Our mentored students often have many obstacles to overcome and we follow them through their high school journey. One of our graduates last year was not on target to graduate when we checked on her progress as a junior. She was a young woman with incredible challenges and we knew it would be difficult for her, but our Executive Director spoke with her high school, reminding them that she was a scholarship winner and that it was within her reach with their help. Her high school counseled her, enrolled her in additional classes and shepherded her in a way that resulted in her graduation and her acceptance and enrollment in our local community college. We don’t believe that would have happened without the advocacy and support she received.
This year, another of our candidates was having challenges and again, our Executive Director stepped in and worked with his high school to make sure he was on track to graduate. He caught fire and will not only graduate, but has been accepted to two universities and is auditioning for an Academy of Dramatic Arts. Update: He got into the Academy of Dramatic Arts and will attend this fall!
Does a scholarship, awarded on entry to high school, make a difference? Only time will tell for sure, but the first years of the Seedling College Scholarships have a 100% success rate and we are so proud of our young graduates.