Our 2024 scholarship is officially open and taking applications! You can see our 2023 winners, as well as all past winners, here.
The Honors Graduation scholarship program is specifically for graduating high school teens with the intention of attending a college, university, or trade school the following school year. Our scholarship platform is project-based, with building a better future for your own community at the center of it.
Our scholarship becomes increasingly competitive each year, and our winners are submitting better community projects each time. So what exactly are we looking for in our 2024 scholarship applicants?
Community-Based Projects: Projects that directly impact and influence the immediate community and better the people and environment.
Community-Driven Students: We’re looking for students active in their community and students driven to see it grow, change, and better.
Students that Care: We are seeking out students who care about their community, their project, and the people they are serving.
Students Fighting for a Change: Anyone can look around and see a problem. They might even have a way to solve the problem. We’re looking for problem solvers. The students who not only see the problem and come up with the solution but also act on it, too. The students that are fighting for a change.
We cannot wait for the 2024 applications to be submitted next spring so we can read more about the problems teens see in their communities and their ideas and actions to alleviate those issues. Together we truly can build a better future!
Meet Victor Caceres, one of our scholarship recipients. Victor is a graduating high school senior in the state of California that worked hard to renovate and build up his community food pantry. He writes,
“My community is very much a middle to lower-class community. The people are kind and for the most part helpful. At St. Bridget of Sweden Catholic church, the people at Martha’s Pantry needed help to restore their run-down food bank. The issue I observed was that the pantry was not properly equipped to help the community with the distribution of food and other products to families in need of it. A lack of refrigerators and shelving units left the pantry and its volunteers vulnerable to properly helping out the community. My project aimed to provide the equipment and make a better environment for the pantry through the cleaning, painting, and installation of refrigerators and shelving units to it. Apart from this, my project beautified the facility so it and the St. Bridget community can now enjoy and engage more with the community at large.”
Victor is very involved in his community and really enjoyed being able to give back to those that need it the most.
“Many people face hunger in the world. Los Angeles is no exception to this. The project’s main purpose was to renovate the rooms and install shelves for the pantry. In the big picture, the project will help the community by providing canned goods & non-perishable items for free to many of the less fortunate in the area. I believe my project will not only benefit the church community at St. Bridgets but many of the people who live in the Van Nuys area, especially the elderly who frequent Martha’s Pantry throughout the year for their goods. More than 200 people rely on the pantry per month and this number totals closer to 400 during the holidays.”
He set his sights high and worked to make the pantry a usable, happy space for everyone.
“The project is greatly needed as lately, the pantry has been suffering from a lack of donations. Simultaneously, the state of the building is getting worse. The community engagement needs to increase. Martha’s Pantry is a staple in our community. Although the volunteers are there, the current condition of the pantry impedes the amount of reach the pantry has. With my project, Martha’s Pantry is better than new and has helped over 200 people per month who rely on it for their food. My goal was to equip the pantry with all necessary equipment in the short run & in the long run. This along with the beautification of the pantry will have greater engagement and outreach with the community.”
Victor’s project is inspiring to all those that hear it. His dedication to not only Martha’s Pantry but to the community members that rely on the food pantry is incredible and a story worth sharing!
We’re also well on our way to bringing you the 2024 Build a Better Future scholarship! Once the updated scholarship has been successfully published and is live, we’ll let you know so that you can send the scholarship application to your favorite 2024 graduating high school senior.
Thank you to all of the 2023 scholarship winners for building a better future.
Meet our top scholarship recipient, Jalen Coleman. Not only did Jalen receive a $10,000 scholarship towards college tuition, but he also received a $5,000 grant for his organization Outside J’s Sunday Fundays. Jalen saw a need within the parks and rec department within his city and worked hand in hand with them to bring new basketball courts and tournaments to their community. He writes,
“The game of basketball belongs to everyone. If you have a ball and a hoop, you have a game. Unfortunately, the sport of basketball for kids has been privatized and commercialized into a pay-for-play model, where travel, cost, and fees are required before kids ever get to see the ball go through the basket. This has created a demand for gym space, coaches, players, playing time, and winning which has caused the stakes to rise, and the culture of sports to become hyper-competitive. I seek to return the game to its roots. We invite all skill levels, youth ages, and genders to play at newly refurbished courts for FREE. Outside J allows all who want to hoop, the ability to hoop without the hyper-competitive, money-driven baggage that comes with sports.”
Jalen worked to inspire many in his community. During a phone interview we held with him he spoke of his passion for the game and for creating an inclusive environment for everyone to be a part of. He commented that his least favorite part was the work it took to take everything down and clean up, but it was always all worth it to watch the entire event come together and see everyone having a good time. Jalen also writes,
“I am a lover of the game of basketball, and I REALLY like playing pickup basketball at outdoor basketball courts. I realize that in this technology-based, travel sports era, that many youths are not participating in sports in a free-play environment. Travel sports requires money, time, transportation, and fees that eliminates a lot of the youth that need to play the most. I decided to combine my love for sports, and my love for community, by creating Outside J, during the Covid-19 Lockdown. I connected with my city parks and rec department, my local schools and churches, to create a website, and prepare for quarterly events that are FREE for youth in our community.”
Our team at HonorsGradU has been so impressed with Jalen and his commitment to helping his city for the better. Jalen has more free events he’s working on in the future and plans to attend college in the fall as well.
Meet Gitanjali Rao, a researcher, innovator, inventor, and teacher. Gitanjali has been given opportunities to spend time on STEM projects but recognized that not all students have this opportunity, so she set out to change this by creating an outreach program and writing and publishing a book in hopes of “finding the hundreds of other Gitanjali’s out there” as she puts it. She writes,
“Today’s education around the world focuses on core skills but doesn’t train students in connecting concepts across disciplines, ideation, and solutions, critical skills that are needed to solve problems of tomorrow. I have found through my experience, children in schools, when trained right, explore ideas better and are not bound by constraints. Also, many of today’s problems, from climate change to privacy, are going to directly affect children when they grow up. It is only logical that they are part of the solution. Hence, I’d like to develop a K-12 curriculum that simplifies the methods and tools of ideation, with the right reward system, so that innovation becomes a learning experience and students can be free to imagine solutions for today’s urgent problems. I see a need to create an innovation movement among school students across the globe, where ideation, innovation, and problem-solving are not limited to science fairs and privileged schools, but are a part of the regular curriculum. I have covered some distance in my journey, but still have a long path ahead, as I build my own skills in research and problem-solving.”
Gitanjali saw a problem not only in her community, but around our globe, and has taken it upon herself to make a change.
“My work broadly involves 2 main areas, research/innovation, & educational outreach. They are symbiotic and complement each other to achieve the end goal of developing my solution. Within my research initiative, I have developed a few products such as a patented lead detection in water, early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction, and launched an anti-cyberbullying technology service in partnership with UNICEF. While working on these, I developed a process to take a solution from an idea to reality, that is proven and repeatable. In the spirit of developing a community of innovators, I started sharing this with my community peers and received excellent feedback. A peer student-led session proved to be effective in environments across the globe. The workshop supplemented any efforts to introduce innovation and social empathy earlier in a student’s education. I started with 10-12 students and slowly expanded it to 300 students per session. Today I conduct about 3-5 sessions a week with about 200 students weekly. I take feedback on them and have been continuously improving the interactive nature of the sessions so that at the end of it, the students have an idea, solution, and a process with them to refine on their own.”
Gitanjali is building a better future before our own eyes, and bringing others along with her to do the same. We were honored to name her one of our 2023 Build a Better Future Scholarship recipients and we are excited to see where her future endeavors take her.
Scholarship reminder! We really do check your references. Yes, we really do! I know oftentimes on job, school, and scholarship applications they ask for names and phone numbers to use as a point of reference, and oftentimes you fill this in but disregard the possibility of them ever being called.
Well, for our scholarship application, we call each of your references and verify before you can even be considered for the scholarship application! This is an extra step to help us verify your project, and hear a little more about you as a student, even if your references don’t know about said project or scholarship.
But don’t stress, we have yet to receive a bad report from a reference phone call. Most teachers and mentors have only glowing reviews of you!
However, when you’re putting down this information on your scholarship application, keep in mind that there is a really good chance they’ll be receiving a phone call and will be asked more about you as a student and about your project. Choose your references wisely!
Our email is also always open to any questions you may have or guidance needed during the process.
A requirement on our scholarship application is to write out your goals for your project. The application states: “Your goal(s) should be specific and reasonable, considering both short-term and long-term. If you have multiple goals, type each one on a new bullet point.”
And when we say specific, we really do mean specific. This plays off of our post from last week about telling us your story. If you’re telling us about your specific goals, it’s telling us more about your overall project. Here are a few examples:
Short-term goal: Plant flowers in our city park. Long-term goal: Attract more bees
Revamped to more specific:
Short-term goals: -Reach out to our town’s local nursery and ask them for locally grown wildflower donations. -Raise money to purchase additional local wildflowers -Plan a day to gather the community so that we can work together to plant the wildflowers
Long-term goals: – Help upkeep the wildflowers by weeding and watering when needed – Attract more bees, butterflies, and other insects to our area – Help local gardens and farms benefit from the higher number of bees in the area with the addition of wildflower beds
Can you see how much more information these specific goals give us and how deeper of a picture it paints when they are written in detail instead of in a general sense?
Our email is also always open to any questions you may have or guidance needed during the process.