Teachers, mentors and investing in the future with somebody else’s money

College is expensive. Doing my best to help...
College is expensive. Doing my best to help…

I gave away thousands of dollars in the last two nights. Felt real good, too.

Gonna give away a little more next week. This could become a habit.
Of course, it’s not my money. I’m just doing my part with the local scholarship foundation. I help them evaluate applications and they found out I liked to talk in front of people, so Bazinga! – I became a presenter.
Having sent three kids through the school system and trying to help a couple of them find money to go to college, I remember the uphill struggle. College is expensive – make that EXPENSIVE.
Back in the day when I started my higher education, I was lucky enough to earn a scholarship that paid for classes, books and some of my housing. I went to a state college (now a university), got a whopping $1,800 per year that covered my tuition and books and had money left over.
These days, California state colleges are no longer the cheap alternative. The average undergrad pays more than $6,500 a year, not counting books or auxiliary class charges. Graduate school is even more. Ivy League schools are over the top; parents of students at these schools are basically buying the equivalent of a new car every year, just to keep their child on track for higher education.
So every little bit helps.
Part of the backstory to the scholarship granting process is reading applications. They both inspire you and break your heart. It also brought out my multiple personalities. The writer in me looked for style. The skeptic in me looked for holes in their stories. The supervisor in me looked for reasons to promote each student. The teacher in me looked for lessons they had learned. The mother in me looked for ways to help every single one.

The writer herself back in, well, the Nixon Administration
The writer herself back in, well, the Nixon Administration

And as someone who went through the college experience twice – once when I left high school during the Nixon Administration and again a couple of years age after raising my three children and deciding I really wanted to take “finish college” off my bucket list – I wanted to help each and every applicant have that experience.
The money we gave away came from fundraisers, appeals, memorial contributions; all donations from a supportive community. We wanted to give as many students we could a little bit of help, and those who needed a little more, enough to get them on the path to changing their lives and reaching at least some of their dreams. Not everyone who applied earned a reward, but I hope they learned from the attempt and will be determined to keep asking the world around them not for a handout, but for guidance and support to keep them going.
I got involved with the scholarship group because one of my mentors asked me if I would. Scholarships may be scarce, but mentors are all around us. Mentors can help us no matter where we are in our lifelong education process. I shared my feelings about mentors with the students, asking them to not only find them, but respect them and become mentors themselves.
Mentor is another word for teacher. When kids are small, it’s easy to point to the people who give them knowledge and skills as teachers. When you’re older and out of school, the process changes slightly and fate drops in people here and there to give you more tools and help you mold the way you approach things like working, parenting, growing and succeeding.

But when we’re older, working, removed from school and just keeping up with the band called Life, they become “mentors.” And when we become mentors, we gain the satisfaction that we’re paying back some cosmic debt. I wished I had a chance to tell the students how many times mentors have changed my life for the better. Look for them, I should have advised. They’re kind of like angels, you don’t always know they’re there to guide you until it’s too late.

My alma mater, Washington High School, circa 2011. It's been around since 1891; the facade was rebuilt to mimic the style of the original after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by  Whitelily519(AmeliaChu)
My alma mater, Washington High School, circa 2011. It’s been around since 1891; the facade was rebuilt to mimic the style of the original after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo by
Whitelily519(AmeliaChu)

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