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.

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.

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.

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.

So You Wanna Win A Scholarship?

Time flies when you are serving your community! Graduation is quickly approaching and that means our scholarship deadline will be here before you know it. Your final submission needs to be submitted by May 28, 2022 11:59pm MST. To increase your chance at winning, you can still submit your working strategy form for feedback until April 28, 2022. For more information on our scholarship, head here.

I’ve been having so much fun reading through the submissions so far and I’m excited to see what else you guys are working on!

Here are a few recommendations for those who want to fill out their strategy plan and get direct guidance for your project:

  • It might be an optional step, but the more specific you can be, the more specific we can be with our feedback.
  • Use the SMART goal model when talking about your goals and include short and long-term goals.
  • Think past, present, and future when describing your resources. What skills have you already developed? What materials will you need to collect? How much time are you currently putting toward your goals?
  • Allies are wonderful assets but really focus on who the decision makers will be during your project. How can you use the connections you already have to get your project off the ground?
  • Tactics are going to be what propels you to accomplish your goals. A tactic is only effective if it’s delivered, in some form, to a decision-maker. For example, “raising awareness” doesn’t help unless you’re raising your decision-maker’s awareness or using that awareness to mobilize individuals to pressure specific individuals in charge. What steps can you take to do the most for your community?
  • An additional $5,000 is rewarded to the winner to help fund their project so think long-term and brainstorm ways you can continue to help change and shape your community once your project is completed.

Best of luck to everyone applying for our scholarship! I have been inspired by the submissions and I can really feel the passion you have for improving your communities.

Scholarship Interview: Ishva Mehta

scholarship interview online tutoring platform

“This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2021 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our 2022 program, click here

Our final scholarship winner is Ishva Mehta with her online tutoring program. Ishva started her project in 2020 at COVID’s peak. She spent her time in the National Honor Society tutoring elementary school children that were not proficient in English. She was finding that as schools were shutting down and COVID was at its peak, these students were struggling even more. Upon researching why she realized they were coming from non-English speaking homes, so they did not have the extra help they needed. Many of these parents could not afford tutoring either. 

Ishva set out to change this and help these students that were struggling the most. She wanted to focus on English with reading and writing. She started with a small website and through word-of-mouth. As she continued her program, more and more parents caught on and wanted more and more. This sparked her idea to create a feedback form to see what parents were wanting from this tutoring website. 

From this feedback form, she realized a lot of requests came for read alouds for their kids to watch. Ishva got to work and went full force with animating the stories herself, creating the videos, and even creating worksheets to go along with the videos. Beyond this, she wrote her own book as well. 

Funding the website became a challenge for Ishva and because she was helping low-income families, there was not a lot of community funding, either. To solve this problem, she took up a job at her local library to be able to continue this website. 

In the future, Ishva hopes to find a more permanent solution to funding the website, write more children’s books, and publish the current book she has written. 

Ishva is amazing and has created such a great resource in her community!

You can see her tutoring website here. 

You can watch her video here.