On a hot sunny afternoon at The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, one by one, students arrived at the office. These students came to convince a review committee to select them to receive the largest scholarship award ever offered, thanks to a most generous donor of the Foundation. Some students were shy, others confident. Each student had earned an Associate Degree or completed the transfer program at a community college, and plan to attend a Virginia public university this fall. They also had other things in common: a strong desire to succeed, academic success, plans to give back and live productive lives.
We talked about life lessons learned from failure and what it meant to be successful. Each student had good reflections, like you must remember during any failure or challenge that “it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” Another student noted it was important to surround yourself with good people and not to let the need to impress your friends influence you to make a bad decision you’ll regret later. Yet another noted when she was in a challenging situation and thought about cheating to get a good grade on a test, she remembered a poster in elementary school that read, “Cheaters never prosper!”
And what does success look like to these young people? We heard, “To get my bachelor’s degree because no one in my family ever completed high school” and “to do good to those around you, be kind, positive, and share a simple smile.” One felt success would be to “look back, be proud, have no regrets,” while another student thinks it important to “live a full life, making good of the time you have on earth.”
Each student showed humility, making the decision to choose recipients more difficult than the committee ever anticipated. We knew the gravity of this decision; it would change the life of two students. Conversations continued for four hours. There were no wrong answers.
After much thought and discussion, a decision was made. Two most fortunate students will be awarded the Late Ace Scholarship. Coming into the interviews, the students never knew the amount of the scholarship. The recipients will be contacted to learn that through the generosity of someone they do not know, their college debt will be taken care of.
What an amazing gift, and well, just another great day at the office!