Monday, March 29, 2010

Making the Call

Over the weekend I attended interviews for The Cmolik Foundation, a private foundation providing B.C. students with scholarships for a total of five years of post-secondary schooling. I'm a Board member as well as a Student Selection Committee member so it's a lot of volunteer work, but this weekend was what makes my time away from my family (and my writing!) worthwhile.

The Cmolik Foundation seeks students that are well rounded with a clear sense of their goals. They don't have to have a 4.0 GPA, but they need to show determination and perseverance in overcoming adversity. Let me just say that out of the nine interviews on Saturday, all of the applicants had faced and overcome hardships that I hope my children never even have to contemplate let alone go through. Addict parents, parents in prison, death/suicide of a parent that left the child without care, or left in charge of all their siblings, effectively turning them into a parent before the age of ten. The amazing thing was, all the students had overcome obstacles like these and still thrived in school. And all of them somehow turned into quality human beings. An amazing feat, considering their young age and backgrounds.

Just a few weeks ago when we met to review our applications and decide on the interview short list, I was asked to draft a rejection letter. Ironic, don't you think? I've been on the receiving end of far too many of those for my liking. I wound up calling it a "regret" letter, rather than a rejection letter. And it was short and sweet. Getting one sucks, period. No need to rattle off some platitude that makes the student want to roll their eyes. If they even read that far. A no is still a no, regardless of how it's worded.

But then last night, I got to make "the call". The chairperson of the committee was supposed to contact the successful students today, but I was so anxious to let them know that she agreed to do it last night. Three of the six students burst into tears, and I think it wasn't so much the $35k scholarship as much as it was knowing someone cared and believed in their potential. That our five member selection committee saw something special in them and found them deserving of our funding.

I hope one day I'll be on the receiving end of "the call" from an agent or editor, but it was really cool to be the one doing the phoning in this case. We elected one of our other members to make the "regret" phone calls, and trust me I definitely didn't want that job. We could only take six students for this September (there are 27 students currently in our program), but the remaining three that we interviewed still may receive funding of some sort. I rounded up $1k for one of them yesterday, and at the Awards Dinner coming up we're going to ask for donations to see if we can't help out the other two as well. You never know, we might be able to pay for their education as well.

One of our students in particular tugged at my heartstrings. He's a great big football player, but if anyone could fit the phrase "gentle giant", it's him. He pretty much had all of the women on the committee in tears during his interview. He's the reason I wanted to personally make the calls, and I know he'll do us proud. It reminded me so much of my current favorite movie, The Blind Side. This is definitely one kid that deserves a chance, and I know he'll make it!


Katie Reus said...

Aww, that's so cool! I can't imagine how hard it would be to write the rejection letters but it's wonderful you got to help change someone's life :)