Best kept scholarship secret?

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While youth volunteer hours supporting veterans rise, few are applying for college assistance

In 2014 DAV youth volunteers contributed more than 59,000 hours of volunteer service and even increased that number to over 60,000 volunteer hours in 2015. Yet, in 2015, just 32 students applied for $75,000 in scholarships. So why are so few applying for Jesse Brown Youth Memorial Scholarships that require just 100 hours of volunteer service?

“It comes down to awareness,” said DAV National Director of Voluntary Services, John Kleindienst. “Even then, it’s baffling. We know the scholarship program is the best of its kind in the nation. You’d think that, just by word of mouth, more than three-dozen kids would be applying for tens of thousands of dollars.”

“It may be the best kept secret in the world of scholarships, but we want to make it known to our current and prospective youth volunteers,” added Kleindienst. “The goal of the scholarship is to encourage and reward future leaders who show compassion for our nation’s heroes and their families. It would be great to see more young people taking advantage of the program.”

The $75,000 offered annually to youth scholars can be used toward any accredited institution of higher learning, including universities, colleges, community colleges and vocational schools.

The DAV Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship provides scholarships to volunteers’ age 21 or younger who have volunteered a minimum of 100 hours through the DAV Voluntary Service Program, often helping at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, or DAV’s Local Veterans Assistance Program, through which they can customize their volunteer experience to assist those who’ve served.

The top scholarship is in the amount of $20,000 with eight additional scholarships awarded in the amounts of $15,000, $10,000, $7,500 and $5,000.

“I encourage my students to do exhaustive searches for scholarship opportunities,” said Sarah Preston, school counselor at Sanford High School in Sanford, Maine. “The cost of a college education is overwhelming and often times scary for families.”

According to Preston, one of the most frequently asked questions for parents and students alike in regard to the college process is about finances and scholarships – how will a family pay for higher education and what assistance is available for students.

“Our youth volunteers are so critical to the services we provide veterans and the impact of their volunteer hours are felt by veterans in need from coast-to-coast,” added Kleindienst. “I see the work and effort these young adults put into their volunteer service time and I want to see as many of them recognized as possible for their invaluable contributions to DAV.”

For last year’s winner of the top scholarship of $20,000, Hannah Farmer, the impact of receiving the money may have very well changed her future.

“Since receiving the generous scholarship, I have been attending Coastal Carolina University with the intended major of Biology,” said Farmer. “The scholarship has allowed me to have a chance at my dream of becoming a doctor and helping others in need. I am now able to take advantage of a higher education, and volunteering has also given me an amazing set of skills that I can apply to my future career.”

Preston said students can be overwhelmed applying to college and trying to find scholarships, and are more willing to apply for scholarships when information and criteria are readily available.

“If students are aware of this making them eligible for a scholarship they may choose to do their volunteer work at a VA Medical Center,” said Preston. “I have students who complete hundreds of hours of community service for no reason other than their desire to help others. It is nice to see that kind of student recognized for their efforts.”

“For young adults volunteering is a great way to begin exploring different career opportunities and show colleges a student’s community involvement,” said Barry Jesinoski, National Headquarters executive director. “We’re going to be doing more to make more people aware of the program. Now is a great time for parents, grandparents and others to encourage participation.”

If you have or know someone who may have interest in volunteering as a part of the DAV team, please contact the DAV Voluntary Services Department by emailing vavs@dav.org or by calling toll-free at 877-426-2838. The deadline for applications to receive consideration for the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship is Feb. 6, 2016 and more info, including online applications, can be found at http://www.dav.org/help-dav/volunteer/jesse-brown-scholarship/.