“I live in a small, rural town that consists of a population of around 700 people. My school district is a combination of the town I live in along with another neighboring town. Their population only consists of around 500 people. The issue that I have noticed, specifically in our school district, is the decline in respect and courteousness in our young men. I am a senior in high school this year and I constantly hear stories about the way some of the grade school and middle school boys act toward others. I also witness some of these mannerisms in the high school.”
“The solution that the group of us guys has come up with is to start weekly challenges for the grade school students that would last 1-2 months and would bring out the courteous side that all of these young men have. The goals that we have come up with for the month of January are to show politeness (say please and thank you, do not chew with your mouth open, etc.), hold the door for others, and say something kind to a different person each day of the week. Our group has also already scheduled a speaker to come and present to the middle school and high school men. This presentation is called “Man2Man” and showcases the positive impact that young men can make and should play in reducing gender and relationship violence, as well as how to be a leader, and make a positive difference in the community around them. This presentation also describes how men should be encouraged to express their emotions and not feel as if they need to hide the emotions as they are pressured to do so by society.”
“Our goals from this project are to see improvement and growth of leadership and interpersonal skills in young men. Hopefully, long-term these young men will have a better understanding of what it takes to be a good leader and that being a man does not mean that they have to put on a “shell” like society may have trained them.”
“Our group has been meeting with the grade school students every Friday during the month of January to hand out fake mustaches to all of the students who completed the weekly challenge. We also describe the next week’s challenge. I feel that the steps that I take to improve my community have an impact on the world that we should take care of so dearly.”
Mental health is important. But what if we take it one step further and focus on mental health for athletes? Obviously, every specific group of people ever to exist can benefit from mental health awareness, but a high school student in New Mexico felt passionate about honing in on something that is important to her. So she set out to make that change. She writes,
“Growing up in athletics, I’ve observed a high amount of stigma and harm surrounding the mental health of youth athletes in my hometown. Specifically, I’ve had extensive experiences with abusive coaching, toxic environments, and lack of access to mental health resources. I’ve also had many friends who experienced these same issues as they participated in youth athletics. Many coaches, sports organizations, and professionals are ill-informed when it comes to caring for the mental health of youth athletes.”
“My solution is to create a local nonprofit dedicated to prioritizing the mental health of adolescent athletes. This is a need I see in our community and after extensively looking, I don’t feel there are any other organizations doing the work locally (or even nationally) to fill this need.”
“I deserve this scholarship because not only have I researched this topic extensively, but I’ve already put in actionable steps to attain success in this project. I’ve written a 4,000 word thesis concerning the mental health of female athletes and read countless pieces of literature in the field. Additionally, I have met with professionals and designed a website for my project already.”
“Furthermore, this project is a very niche but very necessary one. While there are many organizations that support youth mental health in the U.S., there are little to none that support the mental health of youth athletes. This is despite the fact that research shows how important it is to provide this support for youth athletes.”
We’re cheering on this student not only in her sports but in her advocacy for mental health for her peers as well.
Kindness begets kindness. Those who receive service or kindness in any form are more likely to spread it further and show kindness or service to others. And this high school student applying for our 2023 scholarship is the perfect example of spreading love and service throughout her community after being on the receiving end earlier in her life. She writes,
“In November 2021 I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. During my hospital stay, I received a blanket. At that point, I had been in the hospital for several days. Receiving the blanket really made a positive impact on me and cheered me up. Since then, my goal has been to create a project of my own to give other hospital patients blankets. After starting my project, it began growing rapidly. This project has really brought my community together as many people have donated materials such as fabric to my project. I have been able to give blankets to several community members who are suffering from cancer, including my mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer in September. In addition, I have approximately thirty-five more blankets that I will soon be donating to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”
“Through The Little Ray of Sunshine project my goal has been to bring joy and comfort to people fighting various severe medical conditions. My long-term goal is to start this project up again in January and gather materials to continue making blankets for those in need.”
“Through The Little Ray of Sunshine project, I have gathered many different resources. I have devoted many hours to hand-making these blankets. They can take anywhere from two to three hours to make a blanket depending on its size. In addition to this, I have spent a lot of time uploading pictures to my Facebook website, “The Little Ray of Sunshine project” that I have created for this project in order to keep the community involved. Through the Facebook site, I have dedicated a lot of additional time to responding to texts and emails regarding questions about the project. Other time-consuming aspects of this project include picking up donations from people and teaching other community members how to tie blankets themselves. It has been a fun and rewarding experience to get involved with my community and get to know people while helping others.”
“My project has been up and running since January of 2022. My first steps in the project were to create a Facebook site informing my community about my goals. My initial post welcomed the community members, told them about my story in the hospital, and talked about the various supplies I may need to succeed. Everyone was very supportive of my project and began donating supplies such as fabric. Each time I complete a blanket I upload a photo of it on my page to show my community. Additionally, I give shoutouts to those who donate to the project. I hand-make tie blankets weekly to keep up with my page and get them ready to take to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”
Photo by Kristin Vogt
In a Virginia neighborhood, a high school student identified an issue that she felt was something she could help with- stray cats. She has come up with plans on how she can build traction and resources with the local animal shelter, despite the long drive from her neighborhood to the shelter. She writes,
“The nearest animal shelter is around 30 minutes away from us and doesn’t get much recognition in our neighborhood. This leads to people being uneducated about the places they can take any stray animals they find or places they can donate to in order to help rescued animals.”
“I want to help spread awareness about nearby animal shelters by printing out information about them and doing the same thing – leaving posters or hand-delivering them. I also want to run a food drive where people can drop off pet food and animal supplies at my house and I drop them off at the local animal shelter. By doing this, others wouldn’t be troubled by having to drive a somewhat far distance for something that may not be relevant to them. To do this, I would have to make people aware of it by including the food-drive information on the posters I leave about the animal shelters.”
“I also have seen a lot of stray cats around the neighborhood, and I think that if people were more aware of the shelters nearby then these animals would be able to be protected by being brought there. As far as short-term, people being more aware of the animal shelters around us, they would be able to bring supplies to my food drive and help many homeless animals. In the long term, people knowing about these shelters could help in the case they ever stumble across a stray animal who needs to be rescued.”
As we hear more about her story, we will post updates. Stay tuned to hear more!
In a small town in South Dakota, a high school student saw a problem in her community. Instead of ignoring this issue, she put together a plan to help change her town in a positive way. She writes,
“I believe one of the problems in our community is our Humane Society for animals. I believe we can donate some money in order to prevent animals from staying in the shelter and give the resources so that the animals can be adopted within a shorter time frame. Donations, supply drives, and bringing awareness to our Humane Society can help aid the animals in the shelter as well as the workers in helping to provide a better temporary home for these animals before they are, hopefully, adopted. Donation requests on social media sites can help bring awareness. Starting campaigns, GoFundMe, and supply drives can also help. The supply drives can include cleaning supplies, cat/dog food, leashes, collars, bowls for food/water, toys, beds, and last but not least, monetary donations. I am working to partner with the Humane Society itself to help get the word out there that we are trying to improve the environment for the animals. I can also partner with numerous local businesses, private or public, to help receive donations.”
“I believe that these animals, no matter what their backgrounds are, deserve a second chance. I believe that all animals, big or small, should be able to have a loving home with a family that will care for them. My overall long-term goal is to improve the environment for the animals in the human society so that they can get the medical help, physical help, and behavioral help they rightfully deserve. I also want to provide a stable home that can help them temporarily while we look for a loving home for them.”
A high school student in Louisiana observed a lot of bullying and a lack of role models in her community. She’s come up with a plan to combat this. She writes,
“The community I would like to highlight is fairly new to me. I moved here in May of 2022. This community has lots of kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers! Since I’ve moved into this community I’ve noticed a lot of bullying and horrible behavior going on. Not only that but there are also barely any role models in my community, so the younger children and following the older kids who are not showing excellent and responsible behaviors. I believe that making social media posts and planning a group meet-up in my community to meet the different teenagers and young adults would help start this project. Once I have a group we can do weekly meets and do fun projects and activities together with the younger kids. This would show teamwork and problem-solving. My goals for this project are to stop the bullying in my community and help everyone come together as a team. I believe this would just be the start of changing the view for teenagers and helping them understand how much they influence younger kids.”
What sticks out to us in this project is the generational effects this can have on her community. The work she puts into this will not only affect the teenagers in her area but everyone around them as well. Whether this Louisiana teen wins our scholarship or not, her determination, drive, and problem-solving skills will bring her great places in life!
If you opened this article looking for an inspirational story, then you are absolutely in the right place. One of our scholarship applicants is working towards closing the gap between the special needs students and the neurotypical students at her school. She is putting together an inclusion carnival and working to raise funds so that the event can be free for those that attend. She writes,
“Living with a brother who is nonverbal and autistic I am more aware of the isolation of the millions with intellectual and developmental disabilities in my community. Although discrimination and bullying of children with special needs have decreased, there are still problems being faced with understanding the next step of inclusion. I am organizing an inclusion carnival where kids with special needs are able to come and be themselves and enjoy the carnival in a safe and loving environment. The Inclusion Carnival creates a safe space for kids with special needs and typically developing kids to interact and create lifelong friendships. In my community and many other communities, it is evident that there is not enough attention brought to the awareness of the growing community. It is important to me that these events take place so that we can grow to become more inclusive to all people, despite their abilities.”
“I have a brother with special needs and seeing peers go out of their way to include my brother brings tears to my eyes. I want to live in a world where this is done daily. I am working to raise all funds for the carnival so that it can be 100% free for the kids, it can get my peers involved in volunteering and raising money, and raise profit back to my school club chapter.”
Last we heard, the Inclusion Carnival is still on track and our applicant is working hard to pull this off and bring everyone together. We can’t wait to watch her find success!