Scholarship award time is on the horizon. Have you ever pondered just what happens before the winners are announced? The Women of Quail Creek’s scholarship program has two distinct components. One is for female high school seniors at either Walden Grove or Sahuarita high schools, or enrolled in the Sahuarita Digital Pathways program. The other is for the Women in Transition (WIT) program for women over 21 who wish to complete their education or go into a different career path. Awardees from both groups may choose to attend a community college, university, trade school, or even take graduate level courses.
For the high school program, the team leader deals directly with the guidance counselors at the respective schools, who in turn make students aware of the scholarship opportunity. This year has been especially difficult with schools being closed and then opened on a hybrid/part-time basis. The WIT program relies on Pima Community College, hospitals, the VA, food banks, other non-profits, and word-of-mouth to publicize the program.
Once the deadline hits, and allowing for mail delays, the high school and WIT screening committees set to work. They first review all applications to ensure they are complete and include sealed letters of recommendation. These letters describe how the applicant is viewed by her peers and persons in positions of authority. Does the reference letter validate she is a worthy candidate for the award?
The committees then check to see if applicants meet the eligibility criteria: are seniors enrolled in a high school program that comes under the purview of the Sahuarita Unified School District, or are they at least 21 and a resident of either Pima or Santa Cruz counties. For both groups, acceptance for enrollment in an institution of higher learning or a trade school is mandatory. Average or higher grades, as well as financial need, are prerequisites for all who are selected. Determining financial need is especially challenging for those in the WIT program who often have families and other debts.
Once the basics are out of the way, the screeners focus on the essay in which the candidates described their need for the scholarship, volunteer experiences if applicable, and their goals for the near future as well as after graduation. Besides the content of the essay, the screeners look at the applicant’s ability to write, a skill that will be needed to pass many of the prerequisite courses at the collegiate level.
Top contenders in both groups will be interviewed via Zoom. The interview will include questions on challenges they have had to deal with this past year, especially with remote learning due to COVID. There will be one or two interviewers, but the remainder of the committee members listen and evaluate each applicant. After the interviews are completed and the merits of each applicant are discussed, the winners will be selected.
The top applicants for each group will be interviewed in April. Winners will be announced in the May Crossing.