It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Flashback 1974: Phyllis Leckron’s 1st Grade classroom; home of the renowned production of Three Billy Goats Gruff. I hated that play. Seriously hated it. It wasn’t Mrs. Leckron. It wasn’t that I didn’t get the lead. It wasn’t even that I was too shy to perform. It was because I was a poor reader. Reading was a struggle for me. I felt frustrated. I felt almost hopeless. Almost. Then Mrs. Leckron pulled out her secret weapon...Amber Mitchell. Amber was so smart. Everyone knew it. And she was a great reader. And, as it turned out, she was a great teacher, too. Amber and I spent countless hours sitting in the hall of Westview Elementary School reading “Rainbows”, the kindergarten textbook. (FYI: There’s nothing more humiliating that reading a kindergarten textbook out in the hall when you’re a first grader.) I wanted to graduate to “Signposts” desperately; that’s what all the cool kids were reading. And, Amber had my six. In the military, “Got your six” means “I’ve got your back”. Get it, as if you were in the middle of a clock with 12 directly in front of you and, well, 6 at your back. Amber had mine. While I didn’t finish “Signposts” by the end of first grade, I had started it. By 3rd grade I finally caught up and was reading on grade level with everyone else. I hate to brag, but I even made it to “brown” in SRA’s. Only a true nerd would be proud of that.
Flash forward 2013: This week I spoke at the Leadership Grant County Graduation at the Thompson-Ray House in Gas City. It was there that I, once again, pridefully and publicly admitted my penchant for nerdery. I love data and spreadsheets and words. I use the Internet to research ideas all the time. As in…Every. Single. Day. I even have a dictionary app on my iPhone because I have a quirky obsession with words that only Merriam-Webster can quell. Maybe one day I’ll end up being trendy; if being a nerd ever starts trending. #nerds
I told this graduating class of future Grant County leaders about how the Community Foundation has approximately $500,000 in scholarship money to dole to college-bound lifelong learners this year. It told them how it’s the best of times and the worst of times. I explained how we are able to help so many with the college financial hurdle, yet not help everyone. I bet if I looked up the definition of bittersweet in Merriam-Webster, this would be an example. Well, at least it could be. Maybe I’ll submit it.
Then I reflected back on my college days. I got a few scholarships, certainly not enough to pay for school entirely. I had several jobs: dog sitter, baby sitter, housekeeper, waitress, secretary. I even used to sell my own plasma just to afford to pay a few bills. And, I took out my fair share of student loans to cover the rest. Albeit it took me the full allotted ten years to pay them all off, but I did it…at the age of 32. That very year, I started all over again with my Master’s Degree. Thankfully, I didn’t have to resort to selling my plasma that time. Now, I have two diplomas hanging on my wall. And both were totally worth it.
Yes, college is expensive…and hard! But, it’s worth it. It will be the best of times and the worst of times. These students will make lifelong college friends that will stand up for them at their wedding. They’ll also have excruciatingly exhausting nights drinking Red Bull while studying for seemingly impossible final exams. They’ll make memories to last a lifetime and, in the end, they’ll have a diploma to hang on the wall of their first home.
This is why we wish we had more money to provide via scholarships at the Community Foundation. The diploma. There is nothing that will help improve the quality of life in Grant County more than to raise the educational attainment level of our citizens. While the half million we can award sounds like a lot, with the average state college cost hovering around $20,000, it doesn’t go far. Perhaps by this time next year, a few more donors will step up to the plate and establish an endowed scholarship fund to help a few more kids. Some might not open a fund, but donate to a fund instead. Either way, we hope to help more students each year reach their dream of a college education.
In the meantime, all of our applicants should know this for sure…college is an opportunity that will change your life. Take advantage of it regardless of how many scholarships you get…or don’t get. You can work, apply for federal and state financial aid each, ask your college of choice what funds they might have, live at home and commute for a while, and of course, submit a scholarship application to the Foundation again next year.
Future graduates, we admire your hard work and dedication thus far. We encourage you to take the leap and get that diploma. Grant County loves you and hopes one day you’ll come back home and start a business or take on a leadership role. Opportunity awaits. We support you. We’ve got your six.Pin It