Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

The Scholarship Phenomena

Each year, I have the honor and privilege of interviewing Fallbrook and Mission Vista high school seniors who apply for a college or trade school scholarship from one or more of our endowed scholarship funds. I am not alone, for there are about 15 other organizations in the region who offer scholarships and also interview applicants.

Honestly, I think I’m speaking for everyone who has participated in these interviews, nothing compares to hearing first-hand about the lives and career plans of such amazing, bright, dedicated and talented students.

If there was a way to package pure joy, it could be derived from these fresh minds who are so ready to make the world a better place; safer, kinder, more just, tolerant and environmentally protected. It warms my heart to hear their role models are their parents or grandparents, along with an inner circle of aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, coaches and teachers.

They have been instilled with the tenets of good character, resiliency, critical thinking skills, giving back and how to make a difference in the lives of others. If anyone ever wanted to change a so-so day into a truly great one filled with hope and aspiration, taking part in an applicant interview would leave you smiling for days. My only lament: there’s not enough scholarships to support even more students.

Scholarships pave the way for those who want to take their hard work in academics, sports, and community service to the next level of achievement. For me, while serving on behalf of scholarship donors who have passed on, I revel in standing in their shoes, carrying their torch to fulfill a dream they had to uplift the lives of others with higher education opportunities.

The criteria they set forth guides our committee, most typically a combination of grade point average, plus involvement in sports, leadership in clubs, participation in school committees or working on special projects requiring self-initiative.

Each year, after the interview cycle finishes, I often share this experience with my family and friends because of my deep awe of and greatest hopes for these young people. By investing in them, we invest in the hope of creating a better world which we ourselves may no longer be able to imagine. But they can.

Scholarship funds are held within community foundations similarly to endowments and donor advised funds. They reap the same benefit of strategic market growth, thereby increasing the number and/or dollar amount of scholarships awarded each year.

At Legacy Endowment, we are grateful for the forward-thinking planning of E. Wright Yount, Roberta Collister, Juanita Walden, Richard and Mary Jane Weeks and the families of Duke Snider and Beverly Lawson. These are community heroes who recognized the spirit of investment that could be made for the young adults of tomorrow.

With the upcoming awards ceremony this coming Wednesday, May 22, Legacy representatives, along with other organizations who similarly distribute scholarships, will be part of the evening’s celebration. I can think of no other place I’d rather be, seeing the excitement for those awarded and, as important, sharing in the tears of pride with the families who attend.

I might be overly fond of telling the Benjamin Franklin story as it relates to scholarships, but it’s a good one. Benjamin was the 15th child of Josiah Franklin’s brood of 17 children, born into a family of very small means. Benjamin’s hope of achieving even a middle school education were almost nonexistent. If not for the stipends, now known as scholarships, provided by benefactors who felt he could go far in life, he never would have become a prolific writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher.

In 1790, Franklin, a drafter and signer of the Declaration of Independence, created an endowment in his will using about $9,000 to provide scholarships for others. Two hundred years later, his endowments for scholarships had grown to a total value of around $15 million.

Think about the number of scholarships his endowment has provided and what proof to the power of compound interest and stock market growth. So, when one of the amazingly bright scholarship applicants this year stated her plan to major in political science and one day become our country’s president, her statement was not met with skepticism, but rather, if I’m still around when she runs, a promise: she already has my vote.

Jean Larsen is the executive director of Legacy Endowment Community Foundation.


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