Pandemic Exposes Just How Valuable A Scholarship Program Can Be
Austin Branch launches new Young Member Forum Scholarship
October 2020 | Leanne J. Cantalupo EIT (Garver)
A large portion of the brainstorming that goes on during Young Member Forum (YMF)-Austin Board meetings involves figuring out how we can use our resources and skills to help people. Sometimes the best way we can help is by hosting an event or volunteering our time. Sometimes it is by using our platforms to advertise other events or opportunities. Sometimes, it is as simple as offering up cold hard cash.
With businesses closing and people losing their jobs, the pandemic exposed just how valuable something like a scholarship program could be.
When we began offering our own scholarship in the 2019-2020 year, it was not completely out of the blue. In previous years, we contributed to the Austin Branch scholarship fund and designated one of their scholarships as the “YMF Scholarship,” which typically went to the youngest of the top three picks. However, we did not have a YMF-specific application process or decision committee.
The separate YMF scholarship was born from a combination of things. The Austin Branch wanted to start offering a high school scholarship and we wanted more of a voice in the selection of the scholarship we were funding. These two desires seemed to point directly to a simple solution – YMF would offer a separate scholarship to high school students.
Luckily, we did not have to start from scratch when putting the scholarship together. We mimicked the Austin Branch’s set-up and created a Scholarship Committee, which was chaired by Jes Johnson. It was Jes’s first year on the YMF Board, and she grabbed the bull by the horns. Jes created an application using examples from the Austin and Dallas Branches. She also created a Frequently Asked Questions sheet to be included with the application, based on one from the Women’s Transportation Seminar – Heart of Texas Chapter. Creating these documents was the easy part – we were lucky that we had guidance and support from other boards and organizations. The more challenging task was getting the word out to high school students and making this something they were interested in applying for.
Jes worked hard to advertise the scholarship. She contacted local high schools to let them know about this new opportunity for their students. She corresponded with teachers and guidance counselors who reached out to ask questions about the scholarship. She coordinated times for YMF members to visit local high schools to talk to classes about civil engineering and the scholarship. She also created a PowerPoint presentation to advertise the scholarship at branch meetings. Because of Jes’s outstanding efforts, we received 26 applications!
Jes developed a rubric to grade the submissions and painstakingly went through each application. She narrowed it down to five deserving applicants and had the YMF Board help vote on the two final winners. The two recipients were publicly awarded their scholarships during the May 2020 Austin Branch Luncheon. The May 2020 Luncheon was the first one our branch held virtually due to the pandemic. With businesses closing and people losing their jobs, the pandemic exposed just how valuable something like a scholarship program could be.
We feel grateful that we started our scholarship program when we did and were able make someone’s life a little bit easier during this challenging time. We are honored to support students pursuing a career in STEM and look forward to offering this opportunity to for many years to come.