What do an aspiring lawyer earning his BA in criminal justice, a GED student, a member with an interest in learning American Sign Language, and a doctoral student in marine chemistry have in common? They are all among the latest recipients of a Fountain House scholarship.
Three times a year the academic Scholarship Committee – composed of Fountain House staff, members, Board members, donors and foundation representatives – meets with hopeful students seeking to further their education. Applicants run the gamut of interests and goals, but the majority of members are enrolled in two- or four-year undergraduate programs.
Scholarship candidates are required to complete a brief application, write a personal statement, and interview with the Scholarship Committee. The process is designed to involve staff workers who sign off on the applications and attend the interview.
John, a former accounting student now preparing for his CPA, observes, "The scholarship gave me an opportunity to get an education I don't think I would have gotten on my own. Meeting with the Committee gave me a chance to explain where I'm coming from, my goals and objectives, and the Committee offered good feedback and suggestions."
Fountain House has been funding students’ academic pursuits for twelve years. Last year 125 members received scholarships. “We have learned a great deal about how to structure the program to best support our student members. While the scholarships are small - the maximum award is $500 - they function as a catalyst for the member and their staff worker to think through the members’ goals, and create a plan to reach them.” explains Alan Doyle, Director of Education and Chair of the committee.
Belinda, a senior majoring in music, received funding throughout her college career. She says, “I feel that writing the essay and talking with the Committee has been a discovery of who I am, my goals, and who I want to be. It helped me with school, but it also helped me find a purpose.”
Students are not the only beneficiaries of participation in the scholarship process. Of his recent experience on the committee, Fountain House Board Member Howard Owens says, “Sitting in on the Scholarship Committee has been a revelation to me about an aspect of Fountain House that I was not fully aware of: it has been an opportunity to see first-hand how hard-working and ambitious our members are, and the amazing diversity of their educational goals and achievements with Fountain House support! I have learned that, while the scholarship may amount to only a small amount of money for some members, it still serves as a much appreciated source of support and endorsement for the member from the Fountain House community.”
Vivian Palazzolo, a Fountain House member who serves on the committee sums it up, “To see the talent of people discovering themselves is an opportunity not to be missed.”