Youth volunteer scholarship eligibility expanded

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Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst recently announced changes in the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program, which is designed to give volunteers more flexibility in earning a chance to offset the costs of higher education.

“We recognized our youth volunteers have a lot of things competing for their time,” said Kleindienst. “Things like academics, familial commitments and even extracurricular activities that many colleges look favorably on come at a price in regards to a person’s time. So, we changed the program to enable youth volunteers to better compete for these scholarships.”

Previously, youth volunteers had to accumulate at least 100 volunteer hours through DAV or DAV’s Auxiliary in one calendar year to be eligible to compete for these scholarships.

Under the revised program, a volunteer can accumulate the required hours over a period of years instead of just one.

The volunteer must be under the age of 21, nominated by the Voluntary Service Program Manager at a VA medical center, a DAV Department Commander, or students may self-nominate with inclusion of an essay on what volunteering for veterans means for them.

Last year’s top scholarship winner, Shannon Matthew of Florida, said once she started her work with volunteering for veterans she didn’t want to stop.

“We want our young volunteers who will become future leaders to be excited about DAV volunteer opportunities,” said Kleindienst. “The goal of this program is to incentivize them to become involved and build relationships with veterans. We believe broadening eligibility could encourage more involvement.”

DAV awards the top volunteer a scholarship of $20,000 and invites them and their family to DAV’s and DAV Auxiliary’s annual National Convention to be formally presented the check.

Other awards are given in the amounts of $15,000, $10,000, $7,500 and $5,000. Since the program’s inception, DAV has awarded more than $1 million in academic scholarships to youth volunteers.

“I’m very pleased with this policy change,” said DAV Headquarters Director Barry Jesinoski. “Our youth volunteers constantly display the dedication, compassion and tenacity that will undoubtedly make them successful adults and it’s important we reward their efforts. As the segment of our volunteer population best known as the Greatest Generation is on the decline and many are delaying their retirement plans, we need to do everything in our power to bring more volunteers into the fold.”

The scholarship is named for former DAV staff member and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown, who dedicated his professional career to serving veterans and their families.