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Tag Archive for: Scholarships

A Recipe for Success

In honor of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, we bring you the first in a two-part series on the Johnson Scholarship Program. Now in its 26th year, the program provides scholarships for students with disabilities and a network of support services to enhance student success.

What if scholarships weren’t really about the money?

As a private philanthropic foundation, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation invests to obtain the highest possible rate of return. The return on its scholarship grants is defined by the rate of successful matriculation and completion of post-secondary education.

JSF has learned that scholarships that include wraparound support are more likely to help a student to succeed. Money provides the financial stability and opportunity for post-secondary education, but it is not what gets a student through. Non-monetary supports attached to a scholarship contribute more to post-secondary success than money. This is especially true for students with disabilities.

state university system of florida board of governors logoJSF’s scholarship for people with disabilities attending a school within the State University System of Florida (SUSF) delivers both scholarship and non-monetary support by way of a collaboration of JSF, the SUSF and the Florida Legislature. Scholarships are awarded to students with disabilities who enroll at any one of the 12 SUSF campuses.

The program was founded in 1991. It began with an agreement between JSF’s founder, Theodore Johnson, and the State of Florida, which was expressed by an Act of the Legislature entitled “…The Johnson Scholarship Program.”  This Act provides for a scholarship program for students with disabilities to be funded by JSF. It also provides for a 50 percent state match for JSF grants and charges the Department of Education to administer the program.

Over the past 26 years JSF has made grants exceeding $9 million, which have all gone to student scholarships, together with the state match. However, the State’s commitment to administer the scholarship program has proven even more valuable than its matching funding.

Johnson Scholarship Foundation logoThe Florida Board of Governor’s office and each campus of the State University System form the backbone of a comprehensive student support system, which accompanies the scholarship. This is the secret sauce that makes the scholarship work. The award of the scholarship may capture a student’s attention, but the real magic of the scholarship lies in the mentoring and assistance that goes with it.

This is not to downplay the importance of money. Without it, JSF has no mission and there are no scholarships. Money is assuredly the main course. But it is the secret sauce that enables students to sit down and stay for dinner. And it is the secret sauce that students remember long afterward. Scholarships plus Supports equals Achievement ($ + S = A).

Secret sauce can be defined as the personal, non-monetary support, wrapped around the scholarship. The Disability Support Services (DSS) at each campus plays a critical role. It advertises the scholarship, receives the applications, leads the selection process, makes the award and provides ongoing support to scholarship recipients. JSF believes that the DSS’ ownership and control of this scholarship process and the support that they provide to each student throughout their college careers is central to the increased persistence and graduation rates of students with disabilities on each campus.

inclusion drives innovation posterThe scholarship program provides reciprocal benefits to the DSS offices, one of which is enhanced awareness of disability issues in other areas of the university. Ten of the 12 DSSs surveyed indicated that they use a selection committee to determine scholarship recipients. The selection committees are comprised of faculty and professionals drawn from various university departments. This increases knowledge of the special aspects and requirements of students with disabilities, thus producing allies for these students across campus. Another enhancement of the DSS profile within the university stems from a supplementary matching grant for scholarships that JSF offers to each SUSF campus. The local DSS office typically takes a leadership role in negotiating the grant and advocating for the matching funds within the university and the development office.

The most important reciprocal benefit that the scholarship provides is the enhanced opportunities for students to connect with the DSS staff and services. Eight out of 12 DSS offices report an increase in the use of services because the scholarship has heightened awareness of the office and the services it has to offer.

The enhanced relationship between the DSS and scholarship recipient gives the DSS access to the recipient’s academic progress. Some schools take advantage of this to determine when they need to offer appropriate guidance, support or to consider or reconsider accommodations. Even the act of applying for the scholarship can help students form social and support networks.

Ability Not Disability Graphic

The benefits of mentoring and support for post-secondary students, particularly those at risk, seem self-evident. Anecdotal evidence abounds. However, there is not much reported research. In Mentoring Individuals with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: A Review of the Literature, Brown, Takahashi, and Roberts find distinct themes in the research that was available:

Within these 10 articles, however, several themes did emerge, including: a) the positive role of technology; b) the desire to use current mentees to become future mentors; c) a focus on specific disability groups, such as learning disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and disabilities perceived as mild; d) the usefulness of mentoring for academic, career, and social skills; and e) the value of establishing long-term mentoring relationships.

The DSS at each SUSF campus responds to most of the themes identified by the authors. These offices typically provide adaptive technology, expertise and focus on specific disability groups, academic and social mentoring and long-term relationships. The JSF Scholarship Program also strengthens long-term relationships between the DSS and scholarship recipients. In addition to the annual application and award process, local DSS offices organize recognition events attended by students, parents and faculty. Many times, JSF representatives are in attendance as well.

Next week: Bridging the gap between educational expectations and reality for students with  disabilities.

Founder’s Legacy Continues Through Scholarships for UPS Employees’ Children

Volunteering with the Special Olympics has given Shelby Leonard of Fort Myers, Florida, a glimpse into her future.

The Florida SouthWestern State College student hopes to become a pediatric nurse “to help all types of children, especially those with special needs,” she says.

closeup of hand written and typed thank you lettersShelby recently wrote a thank-you letter to the Board of Directors of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation for awarding her a scholarship to help her achieve her goals. As the daughter of a UPS employee in Florida, she was eligible to apply for a scholarship through the JSF Scholarship Program.

This year, the program awarded a total of $293,500 to 53 new recipients, including Shelby. In addition, 146 students received renewal awards totaling $873,400.

From 1992, when the program began, to 2016, the Johnson Scholarship Foundation awarded more than $18.4 million for scholarships for more than 1,200 students.

JSF founder Theodore R. JohnsonThis core program was dear to JSF founder Theodore R. Johnson, who joined United Parcel Service as an industrial engineer in 1923. He later became the first personnel manager and vice president for industrial relations before his retirement in 1952. He and his wife, Vivian, believed strongly that higher education paves the way to a better life.

Today, the Foundation that is their legacy funds a number of programs that support disadvantaged students, students with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples.

As a core program, this scholarship program receives annual support from the Foundation. It is administered by Scholarship Management Services, a division of Scholarship America.

Palm trees viewed from the ground upThe scholarship is for dependent children of full-time or permanent part-time UPS employees and UPS retirees in Florida.

The recipients attend schools throughout Florida and are studying a variety of subjects. Many of the students are active in campus activities and are gaining work experience through internships.

Samuel Alfonso, a student at the University of South Florida, recently spent the summer completing an internship with a civil engineering firm in Tampa.

“I have learned so much over the past couple of months about how civil engineering really works,” he wrote. “I have helped produce several sets of plans for the drainage division, and have even led proposal efforts on a job issued by the Florida Department of Transportation.

fountain pen and blank sheet of paper“None of this would have been possible without the support of you all, and I am so thankful that I have your backing for my final two semesters of school.”

Another scholarship recipient, Kassidy Wells, aspires to become a nurse. She is a student at Rasmussen College in New Port Richey.

“While working and going to school full time, this scholarship has let me focus more on school and stress less about my finances,” she wrote. “I plan to follow your footsteps and one day give back to the community as you graciously have done for me.”

For more information about the scholarship program, visit www.jsf.bz.

Summer Program Aims to Help Students with Disabilities Transition to College

Florida agricultural and mechanical university logoOn June 18, the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s Center for Disability Access and Resources (CeDAR) welcomed 32 students to the 2017 Summer College Study Skills Institute (CSSI). This program is an alternative admissions program for students with disabilities designed to acclimate the students to the FAMU campus while focusing on providing them with study skills that will lead to their collegiate academic success.

The CSSI is part of a two-year retention program designed to assist students with matriculating to their academic majors and graduating from FAMU.

FAMU William Hudson, Bea Awoniyi, Jovanny Felix, Angela ColemanEarlier this year, CeDAR was awarded a five-year grant from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which will be supported by the FAMU Foundation, to enhance the CSSI program and to create an endowment for CeDAR. This generous grant will allow CeDAR to provide specific instructional support focusing on students’ disabilities and study skills that complement and assist each participant’s particular disability.

The premise behind this grant’s approach is to focus on study styles that students may not have developed while in the K-12 educational system. In addition, each participant receives a $3,000 scholarship for the summer with the intent to minimize any college debt that students may incur during the semester.

With the funding that we receive from JSF and the FAMU Foundation, the program can really work on closing the learning gap in regards to their study skills and habits at the beginning of their collegiate career — which is a crucial time in their academic transitioning. In addition, the summer scholarship diminishes the stress that parents and students have about educational debt.

student reading a bookThe CSSI program allows students to enroll in six to seven college credit hours and includes informational, social and academic based activities.

The 2017 CSSI Summer Program will conclude on Aug. 4 and will include a “Victory Brunch” recapping and celebrating the students’ completion of the summer program.

‘Believe in Yourself’: A Star Student Shares Tips for Scholarship Success

Nancy Stellway, Karla Menchu-Saban and Suzanne Boyd (Photo by Living Exposure)

Photo courtesy of Carl Dawson/Living Exposure

From the time she was in middle school, recent high school graduate Karla Menchu-Saban set her sights on attending Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

“I used to say, ‘One day I will study and graduate there,’” said the teen, who attended Lake Worth Community High School, a few miles up the road from FAU.

Her dream is coming true, and in a big way. The first-generation college student will be attending FAU this fall with all expenses paid, thanks to several scholarships.

Since her freshman year, she has participated in the JSF-funded Johnson Scholars college preparatory program at her school. The program, offered at seven high schools (10 next year) in partnership with the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County, provides mentoring and other support for students to make a successful transition to college.

Those who successfully complete the program are guaranteed a two-year tuition scholarship. However, that was just the beginning for Karla. She was named a finalist and eventual recipient of Take Stock in Children’s Leaders 4 Life Fellowship, which offers up to $40,000 for college. Only six highly motivated students from across the state of Florida were selected for this award.

(To see a video of Karla finding out she had been chosen for the fellowship, click here.)

A mom and her three children

She said that she is grateful to God and her family, friends and community for helping her to reach this point. “I hope one day I can give back, and I don’t expect anything back because it comes from my heart,” she said.

During her high school years, she maintained a high GPA while being dual enrolled in classes at Palm Beach State College. She also was involved in her school’s Air Force ROTC program.

At FAU, she plans to study education. She also has an interest in nursing and eventually would like to work in the field of pediatrics.

What advice does she have for other high school students who hope to obtain scholarships?

Karla Menchu-SabanWe all have the ability to accomplish anything. “We all have goals and dreams to accomplish,” she said. “The only way to complete that is by having your head up. Have a positive attitude and believe in yourself.”

We all can overcome any circumstance, no matter what. “I know there can be many obstacles that can hold you back, but it’s up to you overcome that issue. You must think of whom your benefiting and why are you doing it.”

Be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to seek out guidance. “Mentors are individuals who offer support, guidance and encouragement. They help a child to build their dreams and goals.”

Cake with logos in icingAmong those she considers her mentors are her mother, Maria Saban; Take Stock In Children Palm Beach County Executive Director Nancy Stellway; Johnson Scholars Program Specialist Wanda Kirby; Johnson Scholars Site Coordinator Abbe Gleicher; Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County Director of Program Services Marilyn Schiavo; Palm Beach State College Post Secondary Advisor Cynthia Trager; Lake Worth High School Assistant Principal Caelethia Clemons; and her family, friends “and every individual who supported me in every aspect. They all were there from the beginning and will be there for me until the end.”

Lastly, perseverance is the key to success. “My dream came true based on my willingness to strive for excellence in my education, along with perseverance.”