The following Op-Ed was published in the March 19, 2018 edition of the Tribune Democrat, to raise awareness of the scholarship opportunities available to families through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. It’s written by Dennis Brawley, who, along with family members, created the Elizabeth L. Brawley Nursing Scholarship Fund. Dennis also volunteers as a member of the CFA’s Marketing Committee.
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My family and I enjoy attending local high school events. From athletics to concerts and other performances, we support them whenever possible. While attending a recent event, my thoughts turned to what’s next for these young students as they prepare to graduate. Will they try to find jobs in our community, perhaps serve their country, or be able to afford to continue their educations? These questions inspired me to share some information regarding the give and take of scholarships.
Scholarships are created by donors with the goal of leaving a legacy that will benefit future generations of students. They often create the scholarships through their alma mater, a charitable organization, or other local resources. This is the giving side of the equation. The donor’s gift allows them to witness the impact of their generosity and experience the legacy they have created first hand.
In 2014, through the support of countless individual donations and with the help of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies (CFA), our family was able to create a scholarship in memory of our late Mother, the Elizabeth L. Brawley Nursing Scholarship Fund. The process has allowed us to keep her legacy alive and witness how it impacts the lives of the recipients who plan to become the next generation of Nursing Professionals. We benefited from both sides of the give and take.
This year, the CFA has approximately $550,000 in scholarships available across 11 counties, mostly in Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, and Indiana. And contrary to conventional thinking, the funds are not just for students who are academically gifted. There are funding opportunities for those who excel outside the classroom, such as student artists, athletes, and community volunteers. There are trade school opportunities and community college options as well. If a student is pursuing higher education after high school, the foundation’s website, CFAlleghenies.org, is a great starting point to see what options may exist for them in helping to alleviate costs. Every scholarship dollar they find will be one less dollar they have to potentially loan and repay with interest.
I encourage students to take advantage of scholarship opportunities. Don’t miss out on this side of the equation. The donors create the opportunities for your benefit! So do the research. Invest the time. Ask questions. And rely on your parents and family, your high school staff, coaches, and other mentors to help you find the options that may be available to you. When you find an option, follow the guidelines and make your application the best it can be.
And to the parents, families, and mentors of our upcoming graduates, I would encourage you to help educate your students and yourselves on the variety of options that exist. Community organizations, churches, clubs, and many colleges and universities offer scholarships to a broad range of both part-time and full-time students. Help your students find them! Scholarships can also help parents avoid having to co-sign student loans, which could limit financial flexibility as they approach their retirement years.
In closing, congratulations to this year’s graduates, and best wishes for continued success, wherever your journey leads you.
Dennis M. Brawley, CFP®, serves as a member of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ Marketing Committee.