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Making futures bright

SOLON– For 19 years, Solon Dollars for Scholars has played a big part in many futures for Solon’s graduating seniors.
But many students don’t know of the organization’s financial support beyond high school graduation.
This fall, Solon Dollars for Scholars distributed $25,900 in Continuing Education Scholarships to former Solon students currently attending college.
The Continuing Education Scholarships are available to students seeking financial support beyond their first year of college. The application process is the same for all the available continuing scholarships, and the selection process is based on need, academic success, character and demonstration of a student’s focus and drive in his or her college freshman year, with an emphasis on need. The scholarships are available to all Solon graduates who have completed their freshman year of college and are registered for a minimum of 10 semester hours, whether attending a two-year or four-year institution or technology school.
Applicants must undergo a personal interview with the Dollars for Scholars Awards Committee, also an important part of the selection process.
Recent scholarship recipient Kearce Lindner, a sophomore education major at the University of Iowa, said she found the interview process to be very comfortable.
“The committee asked questions to get to know me on a personal level,” said Lindner. “They asked how I liked living with my roommates, how the first year went, what academic challenges I had, what was the toughest thing about freshman year and about extracurricular things I was involved with. It was a comfortable atmosphere. We actually laughed a lot during the interview, and they made it fun.”
Also required with the application is a written description of where the student sees him or herself in one year after college graduation. Dollars for Scholars President Penny Tompkins said the interview committee also asks students about their career aspirations and what they want out of life.
“It gives good insight into the students, and whether or not they are they self-motivated,” said Tompkins. “The idea is that by talking to them, we really get a feel for the student’s goals and needs.”
Scholarship recipient Evan Constant, who is currently working on an engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, said the application requirement helped him focus on his own objectives.
“It was kind of hard to imagine what I’ll be doing in three years, but I had a general idea of what I want to do,” said Constant. “It made me think about joining a couple of organizations that relate to civil engineering, to help me look further into what I am studying and what civil engineers actually do.”
Dollars for Scholars has been awarding third-, fourth-, and fifth-year education scholarships since 2009, and the organization has been conducting a capital campaign effort to raise its own bar– and the funds for students– even higher. Tompkins said the goal of the campaign is to fund as many multi-year scholarships as possible.
“We want to help as many students as we can,” said Tompkins. “What funds them is the interest on our endowed funds. The more that fund grows, the more we can help students.”
And Solon Dollars for Scholars helps a lot of students.
Many Dollars for Scholars chapters aren’t even able to offer any multi-year scholarships like Solon’s.
“It’s not real common in the state of Iowa, because most chapters are small and don’t always do a lot of fundraising,” Tompkins noted.
Tompkins said the success of the program is evident from the thanks they receive from scholarship recipients.
“We usually hear back from the students, especially in the first year or two,’ she said. “We receive very nice thank you notes that say things like, ‘I couldn’t do this without you.’ Our most heartfelt thanks comes from the kids, because we are enabling them to do something they’d have to do on their own otherwise, and may not be able to do without help.”
Tompkins said though the economy has tightened, the people of the Solon community and surrounding area are still very supportive of the program.
“I think people are becoming more interested, and see an increasing need,” said Tompkins. “Everybody knows education is important, and this is the community saying ‘we feel your college education is important and we want to help you.’ They step up beyond their own families to support education. We are very lucky to have the opportunities that a lot of communities and families don’t have.”
For Evan Constant, the scholarship meant he did not have to add a job to his already busy schedule of engineering studies and playing outside linebacker for the UW-Platteville Pioneers.
“Especially since I pay out-of-state tuition, it helps knowing I have some financial assistance to pay tuition and housing. That helps me focus more on school and football.”
Lindner agreed.
“It’s hard to put a price on education, and it’s hard to go through college worrying about paying the U-bill. Money is something you worry about every month, so just knowing that someone wants to help you get through college, further your career and have a better life– and not have to worry so much about the money– is a good feeling. Being involved in such a community makes me really grateful. I know a lot of other kids from other schools that don’t have opportunities like this.”
This year’s Continuing Education Scholarship recipients were:
Single Year Continuing Education Scholarship Awards:Madeline Walkner, Quinn Hackert, Thomas Wilford, Blake Bruene, Luke Freebolin.
Jack Neuzil Continuing Education Scholarship: Kayla Fisher.
Gross-Lee Family Foundation Continuing Education Scholarship: Kearce Lindner.
Three-year Continuing Education Scholarship: Evan Constant, Jessica Dooley, Ben Nigg.