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Rotary scholarships making a difference

As I See It

Each year the Rotary Club of Jackson awards college scholarships to a group of deserving students in the Hinds-Rankin-Madison area.

The scholarship is for a total of $12,000, payable in four installments of $3,000 per year. Students are required to maintain a 2.5 average and perform four hours of tutoring or community service each week during the school year.

Students are assigned to a Rotary Club member who mentors that student throughout their college career. Mentors are actively involved with the students and are an important ingredient in the program’s success.

The program began in 1990 and, to date, more than $1 million has been awarded to 93 students. Academic qualification, potential for success and family financial situation are factors that are considered by the selection committee. Funding for the program comes from the club’s annual Sweetheart Banquet raffle and from member donations.

It is a pleasure each year to hear these students tell how the Rotary scholarships have provided them with opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Youngsters are the natural resources of our future and I am reminded each year that our future is in good hands.

Why do Rotarians contribute money to help young people get a college education? For that matter, why do members of Lions Clubs, Exchange Clubs and other civic and charitable organizations volunteer their time and money to further causes that benefit our society? In a word, it’s all about giving back to our community.

Even in our fast-paced, over-indulgent, immediate gratification-centered culture there are still lots of people who feel the urge to help others. Some give money, some time, and some both. One often quoted scripture from the New Testament book of Luke says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Not only is that scripture apropos for the Rotarians who have contributed so generously toward the scholarship program, but it was quoted by one of the student recipients in expressing the obligation she felt as the result of receiving the scholarship.

I find it hard to say “no” when asked to serve on civic and charitable boards. Consequently, I probably spend more time in such pursuits than I should. Nonetheless, I have noticed over the years that the same people seem to appear again and again whenever volunteers are needed.

Whether these folks are responding to the scriptural admonition or merely trying to further their personal business interests I couldn’t say. However, regardless of motivation, they perform important service to the community and make our state a better place to live.

For anyone feeling the call toward community service but still standing on the sidelines, I suggest jumping right in. Charitable organizations, civic organizations, schools, hospitals and churches are all desperately in need of money and volunteer service. The poor economy of the last two years has left nonprofits in a real bind, so your participation, both financial and caloric, is needed now more than ever.

Try it, you’ll like it.

Thought for the Moment — A man may cease to be lucky, for that is beyond his control; but he should not cease to be honest. — King Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718)

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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