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New program offers more opportunities for scholarship donors, recipients

posted Jul 27, 2012, 11:15 AM by Brian Lockhart

New program offers more opportunities for scholarship donors, recipients

Staff Writer

Scholarships often do more than provide money. They also can tell stories.

Take the story told by a scholarship established under the auspices of Dollars for Scholars, a new local “clearinghouse” for scholarships. It’s the tale of the short but inspirational life of John C. Arnold.

Arnold was about as active as any member of the Danville High School Class of 1986.

“He played soccer, ran cross country, was in the band and acted in plays, and also held his own in the classroom,” said his sister Mimi Arnold Becker of Danville. “He was just a well-rounded high school student and all-around good kid.”

And he also was a young man with a very serious asthma condition – one that took his life less than a year after he had graduated from DHS.

“He went on to (the University of Kentucky) and was doing OK in school. He didn’t participate in a lot of activities like he had in high school, instead focusing his attention and energy on his classes,” said Becker, adding that her brother carried a small oxygen tank in a flight bag at all times.”

In March 1987, Arnold was heading home from Lexington to Danville when his breathing became labored, he had to pull off onto the side of the road. After years of bravely battling the asthma, the disease finally had taken it’s toll. Arnold died in the car before rescue personnel could get to him.

But Arnold came back to life, in a sense, on Saturday night on the stage of Newlin Hall in the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College. The occasion was the commencement of DHS Class of 2003 and, during the ceremony, one of the graduates, Mitch Massaro, was given a scholarship memorializing the ’86 DHS grad – the first John C. Arnold Memorial Scholarship, established and endowed by Mimi Arnold Becker and the rest of the Arnold family.

The ceremony was doubly special but was also bittersweet for the Becker and Arnold families. Not long after the Arnold scholarship was awarded, his nephew, Paul Becker, who is the son of Mimi and Steve Becker, received his diploma. Just before the graduation, however, Becker’s father, Paul Arnold, the patriarch of the family, died.

“How wonderful it was to see my brother and my son honored at the same ceremony. It was an occasion we will always remember and cherish,” Mimi Becker said. “It also helped ease the pain of losing Dad.”

Under rules for the scholarship, Massaro will receive a total of $4,000 for four years as long as he remains in good standing at the college he will be attending. He will receive $1,000 a year; it is renewable on a year-to-year basis for four years.

The committee that oversees the awarding of the Arnold scholarship is comprised of John Arnold’s former music teacher, Alice Clarke; his former soccer coach, Gary Reynolds; and DHS counselor David McAfee.

The Arnold scholarship is the first scholarship awarded through the Dollars for Scholars program. According to its founders, Dollars for Scholars is a new and different kind of scholarship program for Boyle County donors and recipients.

The wide array of post-secondary scholarships are offered local high school graduates, including those awarded by the colleges they will be attending, those given by various social-service clubs and those memorial scholarships awarded during graduation ceremonies.

An example of a recently-established scholarship similar to the Arnold scholarship is one set up a couple of years ago in the honor of the late philanthropist Lottie Ellis. Under the Hudson-Ellis Scholarship Fund, which is overseen by the Bluegrass Community Foundation in Lexington, one local male and one local female high school graduate receives a $4,000 scholarship that is renewable annually.

A more wide-ranging umbrella-like scholarship program that is virtually the same as Dollars for Scholars was established last year in Lincoln County and already “hundreds of thousands of dollars” have been donated to scholarship set up under the program’s auspices, said Dollars for Scholar president, Bill Erwin.

The Lincoln program “essentially is what ours will be like” in that it is of, by, and for local people and will offer or serve as a conduit for a number of different scholarships, Erwin said. The Hudson-Ellis program is different in that it offers a single scholarship with specific rules for two students a year and, while decisions on award winners are made by a committee of local people, it is overseen by a Lexington organization, he said.

“Dollars for Scholars is a program that is founded and funded by local people, overseen and managed by local people and for local students, “ Erwin said. “It’s a grassroots program that offers local people to give tax-deductible gifts at the local level.”

Dollars for Scholars offers more opportunities for both donors and recipients, he said.

“Donors can donate to existing scholarships or help establish, endow and design new ones or simply give their money without designating where or for whom it goes,” Erwin said. “Scholarships can be general and offered to students at local high schools or they can be very specific, given to a certain school based on field of study, extracurricular activity or economic condition. They will be students going to technical or trade schools as well as college.

“Some scholarships will be based on academic merit, others will not. Some scholarships will be based on economic need, others will not. They can be for average students who do not have college potential. They can be for students who may have the wherewithal to pay for college but deserve to be awarded a scholarship based on their superior academic performance.”

Erwin noted that there are several scholarships available to local students but many of them “go to the same students.”

“A lot of the criteria for many of the scholarships are the same or similar and that means many of them go to a handful of students,“ he said. “The goal of our program is to serve as a local clearinghouse for scholarships and to help develop a number of different kinds of scholarships.

“We want to create the situation where just about any local high school graduate can go to a college or a trade school or any other post-secondary education program that wants to.”

A single application process will be developed whereby students seeking or being nominated for scholarships may have their names put on a list and then be considered for several scholarships at the same time, said Erwin.

Dollars for Scholars, whose vice president is former Kentucky School for the Deaf superintendent John Hudson, has three boards – publicity and marketing, headed by Jenny Watkins of the Idea Farm; fund-raising, headed by former Pikeville College President Bill Owens; and awards. Also involved in the program are the counselors at the local high schools and Danville school board member Steve Becker, Mimi’s husband and Paul’s father, and Preston Miles of the Boyle County school board.

A big role is being played by local banker Greg Caudill, who is in charge of fund-raising. Erwin noted that already $1,000 has been raised, and several fund-raisers are being planned.

But the program’s first product – the John C. Arnold scholarship – was entirely funded by the late DHS grad’s family. While Erwin hopes many other local people use Dollars for Scholars to create similar scholarships, he doubts there will be one that can match the Arnold scholarship for its emotional impact.

“The (Arnold scholarship) is about a young man who was seriously hampered by a disease but made the most of the short life he was given,” he said. “Thanks to the Arnold family, John Arnold’s inspirational life will live on every year for years to come.”

Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2003