As they have done for over 30 years, the Richardson East Rotary Club of Texas, through their annual scholarship application process, once again responded to the needs of the local community’s graduating high school seniors. 
Little did anyone know how different 2020 would look when the scholarship dollars were committed and students were advised by the Scholarship Committee to apply through their school guidance counselor?  Suddenly in March 2020, the school district shut down and the counselors were removed from the process.  We still wanted to award scholarships to our deserving students, so we created a new process.
Committee Chair, Miki Mankin agreed to accept the applications directly and to coordinate the process, during these challenging times.  33 applications were received for consideration.  The voluminous sets of documents from four area schools were scanned and emailed to the committee to review and score.    Since in-person interviews would not be possible this year, virtual interviews were arranged with the top scoring candidates, to allow the committee and the student to “meet”.   We asked each student to explain why they should be awarded one of the 6 available scholarships, either one of the 4 four year scholarships of $6000 each, or one of the 2 two year scholarships of $2000 each.  This represents a total commitment of $28,000 for these six young adults to fund their college dream.  The virtual online call was the only contact we could have with the students and it was a great way for the committee to see the passion, desire and need each of the students brought to the equation.
Reading the applications was very inspiring for those on the committee, with most struck by how much financial hardship the students outlined that they and their families face already, even before including the additional financial challenge that attending college will bring.   For many, they are the first in their family to achieve this goal of attending college (even).  Receiving scholarships to attend is a critical next step to help them realize their dreams.  Seeing how they are managing their senior year of high school in a world of many unknowns shows the grit they have and the never-ending belief that things will get better. 
This year we are proud to award the following students 4-year scholarships: Caleb Cole, Ana Berrios, Raqeeb Mohammed and Cooper Brown.  We are equally proud to grant the following students 2-year scholarships: Amy Flower, Angela Garcia
The six recipients are each assigned a mentor, and are required to maintain their GPA while enrolling in a minimum number of credit hours to continue to receive their scholarship funds going forward.  We encourage them to visit the Club during school breaks and engage with their mentor on a continual basis.
Narrowing the group to 6 awardees was bittersweet for all on the committee.  The need in our community is great, and the committee couldn’t help but ask, “How can we do more in the future?”  There is no doubt that the Pandemic will place a continued strain on many families in the next few years as whole industries have been impacted and many local jobs lost. 
Since the inception of the Richardson East Rotary Club, well in excess of $400,000 has been granted in scholarships to local students to fulfill their dreams of attending college.  The club’s annual Games and Gala Event raise the funds for the scholarship.  We plan to ramp up our communication of the need for more contributions both at the annual fundraising event and throughout the year so we can make the dreams of MORE local young adults come to fruition with the grant of a scholarship.  Giving hope to a young adult for their future is an amazing thing.  As Lady Bird Johnson, another Texan, is quoted as saying, “Children are apt to live up to what you believe of them”. 
Richardson East Rotary Club of Richardson Texas, does believe that children are the future, and helping them grow their knowledge is the best hand UP we could ever provide to them to foster a vibrant, thriving community.