Letters of Recommendation: Our Tips To You

As you students prepare for graduation, job interviews, college applications, and more, one common thing will come up that you will need- Letters of recommendation. 

What is a letter of recommendation? It’s when a teacher or mentor writes a letter to advocate for you as you apply for whatever it is you’re trying to get into. Obtaining these letters can be as easy as contacting trusted teachers and mentors asking for a letter. However, here are a few tips to keep in mind. 

  1. Consider what you need the letter for- is it to get into college? Is it for a scholarship? To get into a specific group, club, or program? 
  2. Utilize this in who you ask for a letter from. For example: If you’re applying for a business school at your University, talk to past teachers in subjects related to business. Economics, finance, business, etc. 

One of our past scholarship winners came to us asking for a letter of recommendation for a similar scholarship geared towards college students. Keep your letters similar to what you are needing them for. 

  1. Ask for letters from teachers and mentors that know you well and will have plenty of positive points to talk about for you. 
  2. Let them know what you need the letter for, giving them some background on what the letter is for/ who their audience is can help them in writing it.
  3. Give them plenty of time to get the letter to you, they may not have time the night before to get it done for you! 

Asking for letters of recommendation doesn’t have to be daunting and can help your application be taken to the next level. Good luck! 

Tips For Applying For Scholarships

What’s better than money? FREE money! There are different companies and people around the world that understand not just how expensive higher education can be, but also how important it is. To help this, they offer students scholarships to help offset these costs. (Hint, hint, we offer a really good scholarship too!) As far as applying for scholarships, here are our tips! 

  • Never assume you are too young or too old. You can find scholarships as young as 7th or 8th grade or even clear into your Ph.D. 
  • Write out a general essay that you can adapt to each scholarship you apply for. 
  • If you are employed, check into your company to see if they offer any scholarships or school reimbursement 
  • Get started early! If you procrastinate on deadlines, you may miss out on great opportunities. It also looks good to scholarship boards to see those that submitted early versus those that waited until the last minute. 
  • If you have specific questions about the scholarship, reach out to them and ask! More often than not, they are happy to answer your questions. 
  • Apply for as many as you can find. If all you have to put in is time to apply for scholarships, it’s worth the money you’ll receive. 
  • Make sure you read all of the requirements and qualifications for a scholarship and double-check that you’ve done everything before submitting. Many people are turned away from a scholarship because they do not have all of the materials needed when submitting. 

Check out this video!

Good luck applying! Be confident in yourself and your qualifications. What other tips would you add to this list? 

Feature Friday: Isaac Stone

Welcome to Feature Friday! Today we are interviewing past scholarship winner, Isaac Stone. Isaac won our scholarship in 2018 when he created a prototype for an invisible cane. You can see more about his project here. 

I have been in contact with Isaac to get an update on where he is now. He is attending Washington University in St. Louis, MO. where he is double majoring in computer science and mechanical engineering and has kept busy with multiple projects and service opportunities throughout his time there. 

Related to his project, he has been teaching students with disabilities how to code via Skype and Zoom. He has been able to assist in writing and suggesting curriculum for this program, and also adjusts it to each student’s particular needs. 

Isaac writes, 

“I’ve been teaching a tenth grader on the spectrum for over a year now, and I have taught two other students with various obstacles and abilities in 7th and 8th grade respectively.  I work as a volunteer, and have greatly enjoyed watching as my students have learned not just how to program, but also valuable computer skills, such as how to make computers accessible to them, whether it be using an editor with high contrast and dyslexia fonts, or learning how to scroll over items for alt text and learning how to intuit what different icons and buttons do.”

Isaac has been working with CodeConnects which primarily serve underrepresented youth by providing one-on-one lessons. All of this was online before COVID, so he is excited to continue doing this. He found this group while doing research for his invisible cane, the project that won him our scholarship in 2018. 

Isaac also writes, 

“As AR technology becomes more prevalent it may become easier to write simple AR apps and test them without going through licensing processes to get access to the full backend of an iPhone, and I hope that will be the case since AR technology necessarily measures distance using vision recognition software.  I have certainly thought about how to expand this project. However time and energy constraints have held me back, partly because the technology necessary already exists but it’s not easily accessible yet, and partly because my other endeavors have very visible impacts on individuals.

Other notable achievements Isaac has been doing at college is being the aerodynamics team lead for his school’s design, build, fly team. Playing bridge with fellow students. Singing bass for a school acapella group. He was involved with a full-time internship with MITRE Corporation this summer, as well as another internship with a startup company called Apptronik the previous summer. He is also a regular member of washU composers club. 

Isaac is accomplishing great work in college and we are proud to have him as a past scholarship winner! 

Past Scholarship Winner: Liz Hansen

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new person each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here.

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Liz Hansen. Liz is a past scholarship winner, she received our Honors Graduation scholarship in 2019 and is now attending Marquette University. Here is an update on where Liz is now! 

Liz is double majoring in criminology and Spanish on a pre-law track. She joined the rock climbing club, which she is on the board for now. She also joined a sorority Alpha Chi Omega whose philanthropy is dedicated to supporting domestic violence and abuse victims as well as education on healthy relationships. 

When I asked Liz why she chose the sorority she did she said, “What drove me to join my sorority was really and truly how amazing and supportive the women are in it. Regarding our philanthropy, it’s something I’m truly passionate about; I feel that my calling is to help others. Domestic violence and abuse are a lot more prevalent than people realize because it doesn’t need to be just physical. There’s a huge gap in education on the subject and teaching others, especially college students, about what a healthy relationship looks like is so important. The women we help at the shelter are in need of support and resources, and our donations of time and money are so impactful on them.”

Liz’s project that won her the scholarship was a compost program for her high school that accompanied a community garden where she was Garden Chair for Pay it Forward. All of this was on a volunteer basis. She worked hard to create a project that would remain self-sufficient even after she left. While others maintained the garden and compost with a dedicated crew working on it and learning the ins and outs of compost, it did very well. 

Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the compost had to take a short halt. They are hoping to have it back up and running as soon as the school opens for in-person education. 

Liz writes: “My project truly has influenced how I look at my and my community’s lifestyles. I really value having other people around concerned about making environmentally friendly choices a habit. One thing I love about Marquette is that they have biodegradable silverware and take out ware, as well as a campus-wide compost program!”

We are so proud of Liz and the positive impact she has on her community. To learn more about our scholarship program for graduating high school seniors, check it out here!

Check Out Our 2020 Scholarship Winners!

Did you know that every year our company, Honors Graduation, gives away $50,000 in scholarship money to graduating high school seniors to use towards college tuition? They are able to fund this by cord sales each year.

If you are a graduating 2021 high school senior you can qualify for this scholarship as well! Read all about our scholarship here.

Also, if you’re looking for some uplifting stories to read about, check out our past scholarship winners. You can see work from when this scholarship originally started up until this year’s 2020 winners. From providing masks to low income students, to a safe platform for special needs students to connect online, these high school seniors have set the bar high! It is an honor that we can help them in a way to continue their education into college and watch as they continue to do more for our communities by building a better future.

How have you personally designed a better future for your community? Is there a high school senior you can share this scholarship with?

Past Scholarship Winner: Austin Fitzgerald

Today’s Feature Friday post is a little different. We will be interviewing our past scholarship winner, Austin Fitzgerald. Austin won our scholarship in 2018 when she put together the Mindstrings Violin tutoring program. You can see her original video she submitted here. 

Austin has been at the University of Chicago for two years now. She has kept in contact with MindStrings and has been working on a way to become qualified for the program to accept donations. 

Since then, she has also become involved with a program on her campus called South Side Free Music Program. Her role is a violin teacher offering free lessons to the youth on the south side of Chicago. She is using this resource to hopefully have MindStrings expand to Chicago where she is located, however, COVID-19 threw off her plan. While Zoom and other online video call platforms may be an option, the majority of the students she would teach do not have this accessibility in their homes. This is something she is still working on. 

Another way Austin has found to serve with her music ability while at school is by playing the violin to cancer patients at UChicago’s hospital. This is part of her MindStrings outreach program and she is working on recruiting others to do this with her. 

Austin is double majoring in Pre-Medical and Anthropology with a biology minor, she has been busy in her studying! She is the current Co-President of the African and Caribbean Student Association at the University of Chicago. On top of this, she has been exploring her interests in childhood development and social mobility through her job as a research assistant at the Thirty Million Words Center for Early Learning + Public Health. Way to go Austin! 

We are extremely proud of Austin and all of her accomplishments at college, especially during this difficult time where the pandemic has halted some of her plans. 

If you would like to learn more about our scholarship and see how you can apply, check out our scholarship webpage. 

Announcing A 2020 Scholarship Winner: Hilton Stallworth

This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2020 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 2020 program, click here”. 

Hilton Stallworth applied to our scholarship this last spring and we were incredibly impressed with his project. Hilton was enrolled in the magnet program at Enloe High school to be exposed to more rigorous classes and educational activities. Shortly after starting, he noticed that he was one of the few black students enrolled in these classes. The majority of his black peers were only enrolled in the standard public school classes. As he went into high school, there was an increased amount of students enrolled in the school, there was still a small number of black students pursuing advanced level classes. This being detrimental to both the students in the standard classes who aren’t performing highly, as well as the few in the advanced classes sometimes feeling discouraged and ostracized as if they didn’t belong there. 

This inspired Hilton to partner with the Black Student Union and create the “All the Stars Initiative” to close the academic achievement gap within Enloe High School by both increasing black student enrollment in advanced classes as well as increasing the performance in the classes in which the students are enrolled. The initiative has three pillars; Outreach, support, and incentive. Naturally, it starts with outreach and being able to get in touch with as many Enloe black students as possible and inform them of the program and opportunities available. Second comes support in which students would sign a pledge to the program, but also to each other stating they would support one another’s academic ventures through structured tutoring and encouragement. Finally, there is incentive which gives students short term goals to continue to fuel their drive for higher education and excellence. 

Hilton hopes that the program will gain the traction and recognition it needs to attract black families to the school due to stellar initiative. The other hope he has is that the program will become successful enough that other schools in the area will be inspired to implement their own version of the initiative, eventually turning All The Stars into a movement amongst the black community. Hilton is hopeful that people will see the true value in a program like this to continue to foster and invest their time in it so that it can positively affect the lives of the resident black students. 

Now that Hilton has graduated Enloe High School, he will be attending NC State University. Since he is attending college locally, he will be able to remain in close contact with the new leaders of the initiative and the Black Student Union. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his plans to visit the students every few weeks came to a halt as they are all now doing virtual lessons. One thing he is doing, however, is attempting to work with the students at Enloe to figure out a way to have similar empowerment amongst the black students in a virtual format. Outside of high school, Hilton plans to actively encourage his black classmates in college to pursue academic excellence, as well as give back to their community.