by Makenna Cannon
The Elks National Foundation 2019 scholarship contests are underway, and our office has spent the last few months supplying scholarship materials and information to our dedicated volunteers across the country. We’ve been encouraging volunteers to promote the contests in their local communities and to communicate directly with applicants, families, and guidance counselors.
While we consistently push our volunteers to go out in the field to promote our programs, most of our promotion at the Elks National Foundation is online or by proxy. This week, I had the chance to practice what we preach and promote the contest in our own local community of Chicago. I attended the second annual Scholarship and Resource Fair hosted by Chicago Scholars. Ten scholarship organizations presented their scholarship programs, ranging from local scholarships to national programs, like ours, to 150 high school seniors and their families.
Most of my interactions with applicants are virtual, either through email or over the phone. This was my first chance since starting at the ENF to speak with applicants face-to-face about our scholarship programs. Spending an evening speaking with students about scholarships, answering their questions regarding our programs, and hearing about their future plans and dreams was both enlightening and inspiring. I learned that applicants are most curious to hear how their specific experiences fit into the criteria of our scholarships. They want to know how the work they’ve done will be reflected on their application and how to best share that with the judges. Their stories are important, their achievements are notable, and their dreams are big. They hope that they’re able to convey that all through a few short answer questions and a 300-word essay.
By representing the Elks National Foundation at the event, I was able to share the experience that you, our Elk volunteers, have with the applicants and gain a sense of the hard work Elks put in every year. It was easy, at least for me, to believe that scholarship promotion was presenting materials and facts to interested students. After interacting with students directly, I realized the true scope of the work the Elks put in each year. They are in their communities, giving their time at fairs and meetings, to provide students with an opportunity to share their stories and continue dreaming. I’m proud to be even a small part of that.
For 2018-19, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.6 million to fund ENF scholarship programs, which ensure a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important members of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and one another. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit elks.org/scholars.