Roger Marolt: Sometimes money talks hope and goodness
The federal government has done its best to make the impact of a local college scholarship about as meaningful as a Christmas card from your dentist’s office. There is a rule that says, if you are awarded a local scholarship of more than $300, you must report that to your college and they are then required to reduce your need-based federal aid by the amount of your scholarship.
The net effect is that the scholarship ends up making no financial difference to the recipient. For the dear and generous scholarship donors, you are basically converting the financial purpose of your scholarships from helping a kid get a solid head start in pursuing a productive adult life to reducing the federal deficit.
The kicker is that, if a student receives a merit-based scholarship from their college (i.e. just because they are smart and not because they need it), their financial awards are not reduced by extra, local scholarships they receive. Even though there is logic at work in that the government can’t tell schools how to spend their own endowments, there’s still something quirky about the whole thing. The rich get richer — what a lesson to prepare our kids for transitioning into the real world.
So, that is my launching point for this week to tell you what a wonderful place we live in where generous organizations and individuals come together with our community at large to present almost 100 Aspen High School seniors with nearly 150 local scholarships totaling more than $350,000. Astounding! Generous! Enlightening! Entertaining! Most of all, a rejuvenation of faith in mankind to pursue the best courses of action for its future while exalting the positive influences of its past!
I am not kidding; the annual night each spring where this community comes together to honor our graduating seniors is one of those rare times that will fill your hearts with joy, your eyes with tears and your future with hope that together we are making this thing called life work out.
Of course our kids are incredible. This night, more than any other all year, accumulates spectacular statistics, anecdotes, personal experiences and observations about Aspen’s youth and places them in the forefront of our undivided attention so that we can digest the preponderance of evidence that our kids are growing, achieving and embracing life more than we recognize as we watch them come awake each morning over a bowl of Corn Flakes before they head off into their busy days accomplishing things we mostly don’t know about. When we ask and they tell us nothing spectacular happened at school today, they are shortcutting the truth mostly because I don’t think they don’t know where to begin!
There is more to scholarship night than that, though. The presenters come up onstage individually to tell their stories and reasons for doing what they are doing. In the process they tell how the kids embody all the good things the namesakes of their scholarships did as well. We get a local history lesson that ties neatly to the present. It connects the generations and highlights the enduring values of our town. This might be the most encompassing overview of community values that we have.
On scholarship night, generosity buys you 10 minutes onstage in front of Aspen’s heart and soul to tell your story about how those who were dear to you were inspired to help those who are dear to us achieve things that hopefully will make all our lives more fulfilling. Loved ones come alive in recollections. We recall only goodness without critique. There is no second-guessing. It is when you picture this gentle arm of the past around the shoulders of our children and hear the whisper of encouragement and wisdom into their ears that the throat tightens and tears burst through the dams of our resolve.
This is the culmination of a beautiful process that began long before this year’s seniors were born and will, hopefully, continue long after they are gone. Our community observes. Our children absorb. We marvel.
There may be a tendency at first to count the awards and try to keep track of who is winning what, but very quickly we get distracted from this inclination by the realization that a good life and true happiness are not measured solely by GPAs and test scores. In discovering the multitude of talents, experiences and goodness of our children and seeing how they mesh so perfectly with the varied ideals of so many scholarships and the lives of the people behind them, our perspectives are vastly broadened. We know then that these scholarships are about so much more than the money.
Roger Marolt remains in awe at the generosity in pocketbook and spirit of Aspen. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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