Introducing Mia Gregory: A 2022 Scholarship Winner

This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship, click here.

It’s time to introduce another scholarship awardee! When Mia Gregory was in the 8th grade, she really began noticing the homeless community in her neighborhood. Instead of feeling sorry for them, she decided to take action. She explained the motivation behind her project as follows:

“I knew that I could never solve homelessness directly, but to me, it was more about making them feel loved despite their hard situations. I didn’t like the awkwardness of turning your head from them as if they weren’t human. I wanted them to know that I saw them and that they deserved care.”

And love them she did.

Pass It On bags became Mia’s way to serve the displaced people in her area. Each bag contains food, water, hygiene products, socks, and a pamphlet to connect them to a church organization that provides shelter for the homeless. All throughout high school, she kept a bag or two in her car to hand out to those who needed them. She wrote down her thoughts and feelings about what she was seeing and shared it with her peers. Her words encouraged others to donate supplies and many decided to keep bags of their own to pass out.

Mia has also started connecting with local churches and organizations to raise more awareness for her project; ensuring that bags are still being created and shared after she leaves for school. She is hoping that once word gets out, more donations will come in and more people will be inspired to pass out bags and interact with those who are so often ignored. She will be attending Lipscomb University and is already researching the area and brainstorming ways to network with the university’s mission program to establish Pass It On bags within the Nashville community.

“It’s time to take action, love them anyway, and pass it on.”

Introducing Michael Wilson: A 2022 Scholarship Winner

This is part of a series of blog posts introducing you to our 2022 Build A Better Future scholarship recipients and their projects. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our scholarship, click here.

The next scholarship recipient that I want to share with you is Michael Wilson and his work in establishing a local chapter of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association. As someone who was homeschooled, he often participated in “real life projects” as part of the curriculum. These projects included providing manual labor for his elderly neighbors, performing with his family’s band at senior care facilities (Michael is an accomplished vocalist and mandolin player), and working with kids in an after school program.

It didn’t take long for Michael to notice that there were two major problems in his community. The first issue was the isolation of seniors. Many residents were limited to their nursing homes and never received visitors. Even outside the nursing homes, many of the seniors were homebound and living alone. The lack of visitors was made worse during the pandemic and let to a steep decline in the quality of life for the elderly. The second issue was that many of the children were coming from foster care and otherwise broken homes, which limited their access to positive role models. Michael realized there was a way to hit both birds with one stone: music. Once he found the mission statement of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association, he knew it was exactly what his community needed:

“The Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association is a non-profit organization whose objective is to preserve, promote and perpetuate the art of old time fiddling, to encourage all people, young and old, to develop their musical talents and afford them opportunities to perform in public, to hold jam sessions and other musical events, for the members’ own enjoyment and to educate the public on the values of old time fiddling. And to brighten and improve the lives of “shut-ins” and other needy people, by furnishing musical entertainment and performing other charitable, civic and community services.”

He immediately got to work establishing the Payson chapter of the AOTFA. He ran booths at community events and promoted the project on the radio in order to recruit members and meet the requirements to become a chapter. A local pastor provided a building for the weekly jam sessions–although the sessions were moved outside during the pandemic–and local musicians helped lead the sessions, as well as supplying instruments and music selections. He even incorporated a potluck into the sessions so others could contribute even if they weren’t interested in playing music.

Michael had two goals going into this project: to renew a sense of purpose and inclusion for the elderly and providing structure and guidance to the younger members of the community. In addition, all ages were able to experience learning and improving new skills to increase their self-esteem and instill a sense of pride. The generational gap was bridged and lasting relationships were formed. But don’t take my word for it; the pictures speak for themselves.

And The Award(s) Go To…

Going into this scholarship season, I knew that narrowing down the list of scholarship applicants to the five awardees would be difficult but I couldn’t have prepared myself for just how challenging it turned out to be. The levels of passion and selflessness reflected in the Design A Better Future projects that were submitted had me wishing I could award 16 scholarships, but alas, I slowly had to whittle the list down to five. There were many projects that got me thinking about my own interactions within my community and there were others that opened my eyes to issues I wouldn’t normally encounter in my day-to-day routine.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Coretta Scot King

The scholarship was founded in the 2012-2013 school year as a way to show Honors Graduation’s support for our future leaders. Using the design thinking cycle, high school seniors created a project designed to improve their community. Work included a proposal, artifact/prototype, and final reflection. A $10,000 scholarship is awarded to the top five applicants toward their college tuition, with an additional $5,000 grant awarded to the top recipient to fund their project.

I will follow up with individual posts that dive into the details of the winning submissions soon, but without further ado, I am so excited to introduce you to the 2022 Design A Better Future Scholarship awardees:

  • Shoshana Folic: Wishing’ U Well (Shoshana is our top recipient and will receive an additional $5,000 grant to continue funding her project).
  • Mia Gregory: Pass It On Bags
  • Brooklyn Conrad: Feeding Growing Minds For A Healthy Future
  • Michael Wilson: Rim Country Chapter of the Arizona Old Time Fiddler’s Association
  • Christian Duckworth: Foldable Dome Homes

A hugely heartfelt thank you to all who took the time to apply for our scholarship and for the work you have done and will continue to do within your community. I truly enjoyed reading each submission and being shown ways I can help my own community. I hope we all will strive to build up those around us, even if it’s just smiling at the people you pass on the street.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention.”

Oscar Wilde

Scholar(ship)ly Advice: The Sequel

As the deadline for our scholarship draws near, I decided to reach out to winners from previous years to check in with them and see what advice they had to offer for this year’s applicants. For more information on our scholarship and how to apply, head here.

Ben Kim (2021)

Check out our 2021 post on the Design A Better Future project where Ben, Swetha, and Johnathan successfully developed a functioning keyboard for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to this year’s applicants, what would it be?

A: I’d advise this year’s applicants that they should not be trying to force a project into their hands–rather, they should find genuine interest and purpose to lead them forward.

Q: What has been the best thing to come from your scholarship project?

A: The best thing to come from my project has been acquiring new engineering skills and knowledge and, perhaps just as importantly, spending time with my group and making memories together.

Q: A quick update on you! What are you up to? Are you still actively involved in your project?

A: I’m currently studying engineering at Princeton University, and I am not still actively involved in the project–however, it will always be special to me.

Find genuine interest and purpose to lead (you) forward.

Did you know you can apply for our scholarship as a group? Ben, Swetha, and Johnathan submitted their application together and they won together! They had close family members with Parkinson’s and they were able to use their experiences to come up with a project that they had genuine interest in, and they knew first-hand the difference their keyboard will make. For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.

The Aftermath of Awarding $55,000 in Scholarship Funds

The past couple of weeks since announcing our scholarship awardees have been a incredible whirlwind. Most of it has been a joy as we have enjoyed the enthusiastic responses from students and their families. Some has been unfortunate as we had do deal with some plagiarism, which is always taken very seriously at HonorsGradU.

We especially love it when it works out to surprise our recipients with the news.

Xelah Baca, creator of BHS Recycle, received the news from her mentor during an awards ceremony:

And I was able to fly down to surprise Anthony Neil Tan with the news that he was selected as our top recipient during his senior awards night for his creation of the Maker Hub Club:

Check out the newly updated Past Winners page to view all 5 students’ prototypes, reflection videos, and colleges. We look forward to sharing more about the background of these 5 outstanding students this summer, and to seeing Anthony’s project grow with another fully funded iteration. Thank you again for your efforts to design a better future!

For you incoming seniors, be sure to stay tuned for the details at the end of the summer on our 2020 scholarship program!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Our 2016 Scholarship Submissions Statistics!

As of midnight on March 20, our 2016 scholarship is now closed and we are busy enjoying the beautiful efforts from our applicants. This year, we had 5 times the applications from last year (so we may need to extend the date by which we contact awardees…we’ll keep you posted)! Meanwhile, here are some fun facts and stats on our applications.

Our biggest pool of applicants came from California at 15.9%.

States stats

Though the scholarship is available to students from high school seniors to college juniors, the vast majority were high school students.

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Of our two prompt options, most preferred to respond to “What is your opinion on how education affects the quality of life?

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The creative writing medium was the most popular again this year with 48.5% of the applications.  

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featured image: Joel Penner via flickr

Financial Aid: Helpful Advice from the HGU Team

Across the country, high school seniors are receiving their letters of acceptance to their chosen colleges.  Next up: financial aid.  Check out some advice from a few of us at HonorsGradU (most of us aren’t too far removed from that game, and some are still there) as you consider your college financing plan!


 

Scholarships

Ashley: Apply for everything!

“I never applied for any [scholarships] because I was always under the impression that you had to maintain a certain GPA or be some kind of genius to qualify for any scholarship. Turns out, I could have been earning scholarship money every year, just because my parents never went to college. Being a first generation college student can get you a scholarship. Who knew?”

Mary: Follow up with your scholarship donors!

I got a scholarship from my city’s rotary club.  Six months later, I found out that they were willing to offer additional funds if my college GPA met their standard, and I ended up getting my books unexpectedly paid for that semester!”

Ashley: Think outside the GPA/ACT’s box

“There are scholarships like ours, where you apply with an essay or a project, there are scholarships for students with specific ethnic or cultural backgrounds, scholarships for being an honor student with a great GPA, all kinds of options. All you have to do is apply, and even a tiny $50 scholarship for being a red-head would be helpful in financing someone’s education. I had a friend who spend all summer every year just scouring the web for any scholarship he could apply to. ”

Loans

Brittany: Don’t wait for graduation to start paying back

“If you can’t afford [college], take out student loans and get done as quickly as possible. Besides that, I’d say that you should pay off your interest even while you’re going to school if you can afford it! My sister has done that and says it makes a world of difference as far as how much they will owe once she’s graduated.”

Jared: Finish faster with loans instead of dragging out school

“It recently hit me that I will not be able to go to school full time without financial aid in the form of loans. Unless I get married and can get money from the FAFSA, I will have to take out student loans. It kind of still upsets me when I think about having thousands of dollars of debt after school, but I figure that I will have a good job, and I won’t have to go through school slowly. I think I prefer being able to graduate in 4 years instead of dragging it out and trying to pay for it all myself.”

Long-term Thinking

Jared: Start with a junior college & use academic advisers!

“Another option is to go to a junior college to get your associates degree. This can help you save a lot of money. If you work with an academic adviser they can help you prepare to enter a 4 year university and make sure that your credits will transfer. Community colleges are very affordable and even have programs that can help you get jobs after a 2 year degree.”

Bart: Get your finances–and your true passion–in order before you start school!

“If you think you can’t afford college, have you considered putting it off for a year, getting some real experience, and finding out what you are passionate about?”

Working During School

Bart: Find authentic job experiences during college

“Try as hard as you can to have your work while at school mean something. Find a job that has something to do with what you might want to do with your life…frankly, your work experience might be the only thing you have going for you in the job search after you graduate.”

Bart: Prioritize physical and mental health over graduating a semester earlier

I worked a job full time at night (9pm to 6am) while going to school full time. That went ok for about a year until I crashed and suddenly couldn’t function at all, and had to learn how to adjust my life to handle work and school in a more healthy manner (I cut back on classes and switched to working during the day until graduation). (see more about Bart’s story in our post on studying).

Heard of any other awesome financial advice? Share in the comments below!

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