New Logo, Who Dis?

The time has come to unveil the new branding for our scholarship! As I stepped into the role of scholarship chair and content writer, I began noticing some variations in the way that those who came before me referred to the scholarship. The original name for our scholarship was the Design A Better Future scholarship (which I’m assuming came from the fact that the projects needs to be based on the design thinking cycle). But as the years went on, it also started being referred to as the Build A Better future scholarship and both titles started being used interchangeably.

In order to *hopefully* limit future confusion, I decided to update the scholarship logo and declare one title to be the official title from now on. The HGU scholarship will henceforth be known as the Build A Better Future scholarship. I felt as though using the verb “design” was too passive and wasn’t giving our applicants enough credit. Yes, they are using the design thinking cycle but they are also going above and beyond to bring their designs to life.

design a better future scholarship high school seniors

In addition to updating the logo and title, the website has been updated with all the information needed for our 2023 scholarship! I look forward to seeing how the next group of applicants works on building a better future for their communities. If you or anyone you know is a high school senior that will be graduating in 2023, you can find more information regarding the scholarship here and here. Please email scholarship@honorsgraduation.com with any questions. Good luck!

Introducing Shoshana Folic: The 2022 Scholarship Top Recipient

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 final scholarship awardee I have for you is Shoshana Folic! Shoshana’s project, Wishing’ U Well, earned her our top spot; which means that in addition to her $10,000 scholarship, she was awarded a $5,000 grant to continue funding her project.

From a very young age, Shoshana began noticing a lack of resources made available to the special needs community. Even before she started Wishing’ U Well, she volunteered with the Best Buddies organization, which offered her valuable insight into the needs of the community and the issues they face. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it exacerbated the disparity and Shoshana knew she needed to do more. She started the Wishing’ U Well platform at the age of fifteen, using her skills as a STEM student to maximize the resources that she wanted to make available. To quote Shoshana directly,

“Wishing’ U Well is a free online platform that is focused on improving the mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being of those with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The Wishing’ U Well website is equipped with a multitude of different resources, sponsors, and social meetings between Florida high school volunteers and the special needs community.”

The website includes several sections, including workout tips and videos, basic nutrition information, coloring pages and playlists designed to encourage relaxation, mantras and affirmations, and–my personal favorite–the Fun With Friends program. Fun With Friends matches a special needs individual with a high school volunteer based on interests and hobbies and allows them to meet once a week via Zoom to talk, laugh, and bond with each other. Wishing’ U Well also hosts virtual group activities, such as drawing and cooking classes.

When it first launched, Wishing U’ Well only had five members in the special needs community, but has now reached over 850 special needs members from 17 different countries. They have also had over 100 high school students volunteer for the Fun With Friends program. Shoshana is actually trying to encourage more special needs members to join this community, as they have more volunteers than they know what to do with.

Moving forward, Shoshana would like to build up her network of sponsors and content creators to spread the word, increase special needs engagement, and supply even more resources. If you are (or know) someone who might be interested in sponsoring, promoting, or creating content for the Wishing’ U Well organization, you can send an email to shoshana.wishinguwell@gmail.com. Sponsors can be anyone from businesses, non-profits, sports teams, and social media influencers.

Likewise, if you know someone in the special needs community who you think could benefit from the resources provided by the Wishing’ U Well organization (hint: that’s everyone!), or if you would like additional information, please visit the official website: https://www.wishinguwell.org/

Wishing’ U Well can also be found on the following social media sites:

Instagram: wishing.u.well

Facebook: Wishing’ U Well

Twitter: @Wishinguwell_

A big congratulations to Shoshana for winning the top spot and a huge round of applause for her and all the work she has done in providing resources to the special needs community.

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.”

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 Is A Trilogy Now

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.

Kayla Klurman (Our 2021 Top Winner)

Check out our 2021 post on Kayla and her Design a Better Future project, Kayla’s Care Bags. Not only did she win the $10,000 scholarship, but she was awarded an additional $5,000 to continue her project.

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

A: If I could give one piece of advice it would be to always stay true to yourself. Be genuine. It is so much easier to talk about yourself and the things you love when you are passionate about them and they hold a special place in your heart. This will radiate off of you and without a doubt, people will love you and your story!

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

A: I have been able to continue my project in North Carolina while also being active in Miami.

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

A: Yes! I make care bags in Miami and in North Carolina. I come home for the summer very soon so I am excited to have the opportunity to do some further work this summer!

Always stay true to yourself… This will radiate off of you and without a doubt, people will love you and your story!

Are you beginning to notice a pattern? The most common consensus between our past winners can be boiled down to one word: passion. If you start a project that you really believe in, it is very apparent in your scholarship submission. Not only that, you are much more likely to follow through with the project if you have a genuine interest in it. For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.

It’s Time to Kick Some Class! (of 2022)

Graduations across the globe are underway and thousands of students are about to enter a new chapter of their lives. Facing uncertainty can certainly be unnerving, and there are many new stressors that accompany the change. For high school students, they are figuring out which college to attend, what major they want to pursue, or if they even want to get a degree. College students are now faced with finding a lifelong career and hoping it is relevant to their degree and doesn’t turn into a dementor who sucks all the happiness from their life.

Fortunately there are plenty who have experienced graduation and lived to tell about it. Even more fortunate, I am blessed to know some pretty wise people who were willing to impart some of their wisdom with you. So for those graduating high school, college, trade school, or those who chose a different direction, these words are for you.

“Once you graduate, you quickly learn that there are two kinds of people: your friends and those who were friendly just because you had a class together that one time. And that’s okay. Treasure both friendships and learn from them.”

-Kassidy Baird (Yours Truly)

“Always expect more of yourself and take others with you on your way to the top.”

“Don’t be afraid to do something just because it seems interesting! There’s a lot of pressure to build a resume or look good for college applications or whatever, but taking time just for the things you think are cool or fun is so important in being well rounded and not getting stressed!”

“It’s okay to not have it all figured out right now, or even five years from now! Find what brings you joy, be yourself, and trust in your own personal journey.”

“Don’t rush into anything and just live in the moment. Be where you are and accept all of yourself and life will work itself out.”

“Find what you love and follow that passion. But don’t be afraid to try new things on the way. You may be surprised at what else lights your fire.”

-Twin 1

“Find something you love! So often we get caught up in ambition and what’s next, when in reality life goes so fast! Take some time for yourself to get to know what you like and what things excite you. There are so many more opportunities for your future than you could ever realize! The best part is that most people love talking about what they do and would be more than willing for you to come see their day-to-day. Explore, travel, and ask lots of questions. When what you do excites you, you will love life and make the world around you a better place.”

-Twin 2

(It isn’t super relevant that they are twins but I think it’s fun to see the similarities in their responses when they didn’t know what the other had said).

“Start applying now. And know you have more experience than you think.”

“It’s not about what you know. It’s about WHO you know. Network and be KIND.”

“Enjoy the day. Let your family take the pictures and celebrate the crap out of you. You deserve it.”

“Don’t get sucked into the rat race. After high school, for the first time, there’s all this flexibility and independence and it gets really easy to judge our own paths by the milestones we see other people hitting or not hitting (whether/when people are married, when people get degrees, if someone got a degree, other people who get right into working/careers). But life is flexible for a reason! You don’t have to have it all figured out, so don’t get caught up in measuring yourself against a measuring stick that doesn’t exist.

I hope you guys enjoyed these words of wisdom! I have plenty more nuggets of advice that I will share in a future post. What advice do you have for the graduating class of 2022? Share your advice in the comments! Who knows, you could even end up being quoted in my next post.

Some Scholar(ship)ly Advice

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.

Hilton Stallworth (2020)

Check out our 2020 post on Hilton and his Design A Better Future project, All the Stars Initiative.

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

A: My best piece of advice to this year’s scholarship applicants would be to have confidence in your work and convey your passion for the issue being addressed!

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

A: The best thing that has come from the project that I worked on whilst in High School was that it enabled me to encourage some of my fellow students to pursue excellence in academia. It also helped give me experience with conceptualizing and developing planning skills!

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

A: I am currently enrolled at NC State University majoring in mechanical engineering. I am not currently still involved with the specific project I worked on in High School, however; I still am trying my best to encourage my peers to pursue their dreams and fight to do the best that they can!

Have confidence in your work and convey your passion for the issue being addressed.

Hilton’s advice rings true: as I’ve been reviewing the feedback forms and final submissions, you can tell when someone is genuinely passionate about their project. Passion comes through in anything that you do, and why not use that passion to better your community! For more information on exactly what we look for in a scholarship submission, I highly recommend this post.