Nonprofit Spotlight

Nonprofit Spotlight: Scholarships are Anything but Common

Nonprofits organize to simplify the scholarship application process

The start of a new year is a time when rising seniors rush to secure college admission or trade apprenticeships. Taking the next step to prepare for the world of work is exciting but costly. Families seek scholarships to offset the costs associated with post-high school education.

In years past, this required completing separate applications to dozens upon dozens of local, state, and national scholarship providers all with differing requirements and deadlines. Three Southern Maryland nonprofits have made this process far easier for families by harnessing the cooperation of no less than 157 local scholarship providers.

Tri-county scholarship logosThis month’s spotlight is about the Charles County Scholarship Fund, Inc., Concerned Black Women of Calvert County’s (CBW) Local Scholarship Application (CLSA), and the St. Mary’s County Business, Education, and Community Alliance (BECA).

Each of these all-volunteer nonprofit organizations have designed a county-specific and commonly agreed upon application so that scholarship seekers complete one document which is then disseminated to a vast number of scholarship providers located in their county. Scholarship providers reach a greater number of prospective students, and the students and their families face far less work identifying and applying to various scholarships.

According to Bob Schaller of BECA, "In 2020, 139 scholarships were awarded by 50 separate local businesses, civic organizations, nonprofits, or individuals. The total value of the scholarships was estimated at more than $200,000. Theses scholarships are for students residing in or attending school in St. Mary’s County or Southern Maryland."

BECA Scholarship FairMany scholarship providers are families who’ve established memorial funds in the memory of someone who’s passed. Others are local businesses, civic organizations, and other nonprofits. In years past, these scholarship providers had to find their own way to reach students who may wish to apply.

Lisa Blackwell, president of the Leonardtown Rotary Club, a scholarship provider explained, "Before we joined BECA’s common application, we attracted a mere handful of candidates for our scholarship. This past year we had over 200 applicants!"

The oldest of these organizations is the Charles County Scholarship Fund established in 1988. The Fund’s board of directors works closely with staff of the Charles County Board of Education. The Board of Education maintains the Fund’s website and works to disseminate news about scholarship availability to students through college and career counselors located in each high school.

college fairAlicia Jones, Charles County Public Schools liaison to the Charles County Scholarship Fund, Inc. explains it this way, "The Scholarship Fund, Inc. application is a one-stop shop for students to connect with local organizations and individuals honoring a loved one with a scholarship. The scholarships are awarded each spring to college-bound students from Charles County Public Schools and, in the case of national scholarships, to students from around the country. There are high school counselors and college and career advisors located at each high school to assist students daily with the college application process."

The Calvert County Local Scholarship Application, originally created in 2005, was developed to award scholarships to Calvert County students seeking higher education. In 2018, the Concerned Black Women of Calvert County took charge of the program and expanded the service to encompass an online portal for applications. CBW also increased the number of local scholarship providers to 53. In 2020, a combined total of $97,740 was awarded to 91 scholarship recipients using the CLSA.

Pamela Cousins, CBW President, said: "We are proud to continue helping high school seniors and college students from Calvert County and are extremely pleased to be able to facilitate their educational goals."

Critical to the long-term success of these organizations has been their ability to achieve agreement among scholarship providers to merge their individual programs into one application format with consistent procedures and deadlines. Not only do these organizations manage the scholarship application process each year, but they also work with each school system to market the common application in their counties, participate in annual college fairs, and even sponsor scholarship fairs. All in an effort to lessen the burden and create greater opportunities for young people and their families.

The scholarships and services provided through CBW, the Charles County Scholarship Fund, Inc., and BECA would not be possible without the community of local scholarship providers. By contributing, individuals, businesses, and charitable organizations help to expand the level of awards and positively affect students.

And, not to be overlooked, the College of Southern Maryland Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides a simplified scholarship application process specifically for existing and prospective students seeking support for their education at the college.

Chelsea Clute, acting executive director of the CSM Foundation, said there are numerous scholarship opportunities for incoming and current CSM students. "The process is user-friendly and guides students directly to scholarships for which they qualify and allows them to apply for multiple scholarships available through the CSM Foundation with one unified application in our Scholarship Finder database. Last year, the CSM Foundation awarded more than $750,000 in scholarships to help CSM students pursue and complete their degrees and certifications at the College of Southern Maryland."

Learn more about the 2021 deadlines for these scholarship application programs:

Calvert County Local Scholarship Application

Charles County Scholarship Fund, Inc.

St. Mary’s County Business, Education, Community Alliance

College of Southern Maryland Foundation, Inc.

CSM Scholarship Finder