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Scholarship organization a good thing for kids

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By Melissa Blankenship

Kids today! Right?

It seems like every day we hear of young people who, to put it lightly, aren’t making good choices. They run the gamut from pure laziness and lack of empathy to drugs and violence.

That’s why events like last Tuesday’s Oldham County Community Scholarship Awards Ceremony are so refreshing. It was the first time I had been involved with the program, and I must say it was an absolute pleasure for several reasons.

First, this organization, founded in 2005 by community members determined to support local high school graduates, runs on pure volunteerism and I imagine, vast quanitities of caffeine. Several members of the original board still serve with the organization, and unlike some boards, this one requires a great deal of time from its members. Their dedication deserves some public credit. Thank you Kelly Hagan, Pat Shaver, Joshua Galle, Janet Pope, Judy Vetovitz, Susan Tomassetti, Karen Alsup, Pam Brown, Michael Dinga, Cindy Hack, Laura Hall, Bill Howard, Earl Major, Donna Miller, Lori Moss, Judge Diane Wheeler and Wiech.

Also, several community members volunteer their time to assist in the extensive, blind application review process. They read essays, score sections of the application according to a rubric, and report their findings back to the organization in a timely manner. Other agencies support the effort as well, with fundraisers, legal services, accounting services, meeting space, etc. The event Tuesday night was flawless. The program was beautiful, the sponsors’ reception was lovely, the PowerPoint contained no mistakes, and overall the event was hugely successful.

Secondly, 59 organizations offered 90 scholarships this year, up from 19 and 34, respectively in 2005. While some are businesses, others are school organizations, civic groups, non-profits, and even individual families in Oldham County who feel compelled to financially support the county’s youth as they move on to the next level of their education. Collectively, they awarded $78,600 this year.

And while that total is impressive and commendable, it should be noted that 370 applications were received this year. That means just over 300 graduating seniors were turned away. I believe in healthy competition for such awards, but if nearly 400 of the area seniors are seeking financial support to continue their educations, it indicates that the need is great. New sponsors are welcome and encouraged.

Lastly, hearing about the plans of so many high school seniors who are embarking on the next phase of their lives reinforces a sense of hope in our future. Future nurses, veterinarians, engineers, teachers, performers, and even journalists (toot!toot!) walked up onto the stage Tuesday night grateful for the support they were receiving from their community. Sponsors don’t know who is receiving their scholarship and students are unaware of which scholarship(s) they are receiving until the night of the event. It adds an air of excitement, and as a sponsor I appreciated the opportunity to meet the young person who would benefit from the scholarship.

Based on what I saw Tuesday, Oldham County’s future is promising. If these young people choose to pursue their careers here, we are indeed in good hands. The best illustration of this came at the end of the ceremony when most people were hurrying to their cars or the lobby reception. A special shout-out to Andrew Dharamsey, a young man who was dressed to the nines and who, without being asked, jumped right up on the stage and started helping to stack and clear chairs. He went about his task quickly and without complaint, cheerfully even.

I caught a glimpse of who I thought might be Andrew’s father near the stage, a bemused expression on his face watching the young man work. I asked if Andrew was his son, and if he had encouraged him to help clear the stage.

“No, that’s just the way my son is,” Mr. Dharamsey said with a proud smile.

My reply to him was simple, and probably insufficient to express to him how impressed I was with such a small but significant act on his son’s part.

“Congratulations, sir,” I replied. “He must be a fine young man.”

I could probably have said the same to every parent of every senior at the event, with a few gender modifications here and there. But overwhelmingly, I could probably say that about the majority of all the seniors this year. I think there are just under 950 fine young men and women who earned their diplomas this past weekend. Of course, not everyone is a scholarship winner heading to college. Many are probably joining the military or preparing to enter our workforce. Hopefully all have some sense of direction for their futures. I know they all have dreams, and I’m happy to play a very small role in helping at least one fine young person achieve hers.

Kids today. Right?

For more information about Oldham County Community Scholarships (formerly known as Dollars for Scholars), talk to any board member or visit occs-ky.org or their Facebook page.