Our youth scholarship program, called Youth Forward, is all about working with young people to promote a more engaged California teen population. Today’s teens face very conflicting imperatives: on the one hand, being young is tougher than ever, not just the economy but also the society make things more difficult. But on the other hand, youth are asked to participate in and promote a better society. Thus, on the one hand, young people are constrained by economic and society realities, and on the other, they are asked to be more supportive of philanthropy and non-profit activities. And we won’t even get into how much more difficult it is today to pass the California Drivers Test than it was just a few years, or even decades back. Our version of online learning is meant to help make that part, just a little easier…

Sample Essays from the Youth Forward Scholarship Submissions: April, 2016

More importantly, our Youth Forward scholarship opportunity is in full swing with some really great essays being submitted by young people from all over the country (not just California). Here are some samples that we are really impressed with so far:

  • Cara Lowry Barker, Petal High School, “The Backpack Project.” Excerpt: “Clearly the little boy was upset as he ran to the counselor gripping his second backpack on Wednesday . He missed Monday and Tuesday, the days to return your backpack back to receive food on Friday. He ran to the counselor in tears, afraid he would not get food on Friday. The Petal Backpack Project started from a volunteer opportunity I had 4 years ago…”

    California Youth Volunteers

    Photo credit: Abhishek_Kumar via Foter.com / CC BY

  • Savannah Marie Gibbs, Samson, Alabama, “The Heart of Samson: Community.” Excerpt: “What is community? I believe community is best defined by the word contained within it: unity. When people come together with a common cause and consider others more important than themselves true community is achieved. Over the years, I have seen this quality demonstrated in my small hometown of Samson through both tragedies and celebrations. From an early age I was taught to love my neighbor just as I love myself. As a member of numerous clubs and organizations it has been an honor to have participated in activities that benefit not just my community, but the state of Alabama.”
  • Nolan Bridgewater, “Importance of Giving Back.” Excerpt: “Giving back to a community in need has become a great passion of mine; however, I am looking to turn my passion in my career. After volunteering in Detroit, Michigan for a week, I realized how important it is to help those who are less fortunate. My whole perspective on life and society has changed; there are so many things that do not matter anymore. What really matters is safety, health, and family/friends. As my group in Detroit worked with the variety of homeless people in Detroit, I learned how homeless shelters worked with the homeless to get them into housing and get them a job. After I saw how happy and blessed the now employed and housed people were, I realized that I wanted to be apart of this social change.”
  • Caleb  Beasley, “The Human Investment.” Excerpt: “I have always been drawn to the situation where someone’s day needs a little uplifting or someone needs to be encouraged because some jerk has decided to belittle them. I like to make people laugh. I like to make people feel good. I like for people to feel like they have just as much right for the sun to shine on them as everyone else does. When approaching my Senior year and getting my own Senior Portraits done, it occurred to me because of the expense involved, this rite of passage may be a luxury not afforded to many in my area. Senior Portraits represent our transitioning into adulthood, all the hard work we have done to get to this point.”

As we encourage other young people to submit their essays for consideration, let’s step back and look at what these four really stellar selections have in common. First and foremost, they all tried. It might seem obvious, but they put digital pen to digital paper and described their commitment to volunteerism in 2016. You can’t win, if you don’t try, and you can’t change the world just by thinking about  it. You have to take action. All of these four authors are “taking action” to make the world a better place, and “taking action” by submitting their essays. You can do it, too! Second, they all have focused on unique and different ways to make a difference. There is no one single calling for all people: one might find it important to identify and locate backpacks for needy kids, whereas another works in a homeless shelter. One isn’t better, or worse: but both are different and unique. Find your niche, and fill it. Third, a commitment to doing good knows no geographic boundary. Of course, we are here in California, with our HQ in Berkeley, but we find inspiration all over the country from Mississippi to Alabama to Detroit and to Virginia. Wherever you are, you can make a difference: you don’t need to travel thousands of miles! Finally, each is commitment to the process as well as the outcome. It’s not about “fixing” society, it’s about “participating” in making it better. Don’t get discouraged that you can’t “fix” society today.

Another quote, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley. If you have an essay for the scholarship contest, please contact us immediately as deadlines are approaching! You do not need to live in California to qualify, nor do you need to be seeking online drivers education.