Scholarship money’s tough to find. No, I don’t mean it isn’t plentiful, because it’s out there. I mean it is actually hard to find. It is hidden and you have to know where to look for it.
For three years, I ran the Police Athletic League’s scholarship fund in my hometown of Summit, N.J. We had about $5,000 to give away each year and we gave five $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors at the high school. I know that’s small potatoes for some, but remember my theory from the other day: You want to build up a mosaic of funds from many sources. Tap anyone you can tap. There’s nothing wrong with pounding the pavement to get money like the money we gave out.
Here’s the problem we faced, though. We couldn’t get the word out that we had this money to give. There was simply too much noise, too much clutter and people didn’t know what we were offering. We basically had some new donations that gave us the freedom to start the scholarships, but no matter who we told or what fliers we put out, nobody seemed interested.
Out of frustration, I finally told individual teachers we had the money and asked them to refer kids they thought merited some financial help. For the most part, the students they recommended were real hard luck stories, the types of people who wanted to go to college really badly but had pretty much given up because of family circumstances.
Sure enough, we established a pipeline through the teachers and ended up giving the money to some people who did really well in school, but had no ability to go to college. The money we gave them helped them go get other money to take the plunge.
What you need to do, whether you’re a student or a parent of a student, is speak up. Check around. Ask the teachers if they know anyone who might have money. Ask the guidance counselors if they know sources. Then go to the Chamber of Commerce and ask which organizations, like Summit's PAL, might be in your town.
The worst that will happen is that you get told "No."
No matter what, it’s worth digging into this. Remember: I couldn’t give the money away, so can you imagine what’s out there that you haven't heard about?
Be inventive. Make the calls. Ask around.
But never give up.
That’s what the 15 kids who got our scholarships were about to do.
Can you imagine the missed opportunities in life if you don’t speak up?
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