What is your story?

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2020

By Patrick Belcher

As the Suffolk Education Foundation launches its new application for scholarships this year, I feel the compulsion to share some advice I heard when I was filling out applications and scholarships that is timeless: know your story.

I extend this advice to high school freshmen and sophomores: know your story! You may be in the midst of your story or may not have experienced your story yet, but pay attention. Your story is in an event or activity that helped you develop your character. Your story is in a relationship that is driving who you are becoming. Your story could be in an experience that helps you decide to become a nurse, a salesperson, or to move overseas. Pay attention to movie and book plots. What was the catalyst for the protagonist? For Luke, it was when he got R2D2 and C3P0 and discovered the message for Obiwan Kenobi. For Harry, it was his first adventure with Hermione and Ron.

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In a time where I have observed laundry lists of activities and awards cut and pasted from one application to another, and essays that seem somewhat generic in their response, I long for a great story. Youth need opportunities to play sports, to be in clubs, to go on trips that we only dreamed about in our youth. However, quality still is more important than quantity. Rarely do these laundry lists make it past the screens they appear on or the papers presented. They may open a door or get a phone call, but it is the ability to transfer experience that wins jobs, funding or new opportunities.

In the world of non-profits where I function today, we call this the “Statistic of One.” It is a touching story of how a charitable organization has impacted a single person or family. It allows the donor to understand the impact of their contribution through the experience of an individual or a family. This allows a donor to connect with the organization and relate to the experience through identifying themselves, a family member or a friend as the protagonist. It could be as simple as relating to getting that first good job and someone believing in them. That connection inspires a donor to make a connection.

In your essay opportunities, create your own “Statistic of One.” Share the experience that those evaluating your application can connect with you, the individual in the application. Tell us about when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in [enter your choice here]. Tell us about the friend that challenged you and helped you to grow. Tell us about when you recognized the lessons from a sport, instrument or youth group affected other aspects of your life. Allow us, the reviewers, to reflect on similar experiences we had during our youth or to be impressed by how you made the most of the opportunities you have been given.

Freshmen and sophomores, start today. Begin by journaling the experiences that impact you, or just your thoughts on every experience — you may not realize the impact right away. Take a moment to write what a friendship means to you. There will be many of these if you take the opportunity to record them.

When it comes time to respond to questions like “Share how your community service has impacted you” there will be a treasury you can pull from, and you can respond with confidence to each request.

This year, the Suffolk Education Foundation will offer $23,500 in scholarships to students of Suffolk Public Schools. Applications can be completed online at SuffolkEducationFoundation.org and are due by April 6, 2020.

We are excited to announce our partnership with Kaleidescope software, which will make our application process smoother and inform applicants of other scholarship opportunities.

In addition, the Suffolk Education Foundation is announcing new scholarship opportunities for area students. The Suffolk Education Foundation’s mission is to connect the students, faculty and staff of Suffolk Public Schools with the resources of the community. To support the foundation or learn more, please go to SuffolkEducationFoundation.org.

Patrick Belcher works with local non-profit organizations. He can be reached at patrick@pbjmarcomm.net.