Steve Wilson

On a Monday evening nine days ago, I was one of many who participated in an event I consider the best thing we do as a community. The King City Community Scholarship Inc. (KCCS) Annual Banquet held in the Pavilion at Salinas Valley Fairgrounds is a dinner affair bringing together donors, recipients and parents for a very special reason.

That reason is the future of those students on the path of further education who after a few years in college or university will take their places in society. Their hopes and dreams hinge on getting a let up on the first year of higher education, and scholarships provided by a wide segment of the community can help fulfill those hopes and dreams.

This year under the directorship of Sarah Nash, Pam Kirkpatrick, Sami Jo Johnson and Steve Schmidt, the KCCS hosted some 68 donors who gave scholarships to 79 students to the tune of $202,305. If you wish to be part of this honorable endeavor, get in touch at [email protected]; you can help guarantee the future.

For those unaware of how the whole process works, here is a brief explanation. Donors, be they individuals, businesses, professional or nonprofit organizations, receive scholarship applications from students via KCCS, the number of applications received varies for each donor. Each donor then chooses how many applicants they wish to interview and conveys this information to KCCS staff, who then notify the students.

Interview night is held in the cafeteria at the high school and I suppose for the seniors that evening is the toughest part of the whole process. After all the students have had their interviews, the donor notifies KCCS of the students or students they will award a scholarship. As a member of the Stage Hands, I can state that for our June and Rusty Houx Scholarship we gave scholarships to three seniors.

As the Stage Hands is an Arts troupe, we of course lean toward students who have been involved in the Arts in some manner; it does not necessarily mean they will move into primarily Arts curriculum in college but that they have been active in Arts endeavors while students. Without going into too much detail, let me tell you about them.

Lucero is from a single-parent household who found confidence in herself through drama and journalism; she performed in Sol Treasures children’s musicals and will study business administration.

Hannah is from a single-income family and is an accomplished musician, cello is her main instrument, but I’m sure she could play just about any instrument with little instruction. She has been involved with the high school wind ensemble and music club, Sol Treasures, Stage Hands and is a member of the Hartnell orchestra. She will pursue a degree in music education and some day be a music instructor.

The third recipient was Kelly, a dancer. She will enroll as a nursing student while keeping up with her dance background. As a member of the Monterey County Dance Theatre since the age of 3-1/2, she has performed on the Robert Stanton Stage some 78 times, an astounding number accumulated in a short 18 years. (There is another dancer named Daisy, a Greenfield senior, who can either match or come close to that number of performances.)

While the night of scholarship awarding is a wonderful thing for aspiring students, I fear in some cases it may not be enough to guarantee smooth financial sailing until a degree is earned. College in the United States is expensive, very expensive. And this is a fact not unknown to parents and seniors alike; one comment I heard from a recipient was “I hope my scholarship pays for at least one book”; a not unrealistic statement. If a young person cannot rely upon grants and scholarships, which are not always abundant nor easily attained, then either employment or student loans are the vehicle to graduation.

Anyone who has attended college or university is aware that maintaining an academic life while working even 20 hours a week can be daunting, and end a college career if not handled properly. The alternative to working is the student loan route, an act which can saddle young people with debt for many years to come. And no one cares to be in debt.

Some leaders in government feel that such loans have been administrated in such a way as to cause tremendous burden to people who are years past graduation and still trying to pay for that degree, which of course impacts their lives negatively to the point that thousands of Americans cannot live up to their full social and personal capacities because of the onus of paying off year’s old loans. This in turn causes the country to operate less efficiently when so many are not operating at full throttle long past their time in lecture halls.

There is a plan to free many of these past-tense students from debilitating debt and allow graduating seniors to avoid resorting to loans to offset the outrageous cost of higher education. But, of course, in this time of deep partisan divide, any attempts to legislate the eradication of these debts is met with hot opposition. And the comments against any efforts to bring about such a plan are often, in my opinion, just plain mean-spirited and short-sighted. Most comments against are made either by adults who never graduated or those who graduated long ago and are ignorant of current college administrative monetary needs.

College and university administrators and ancillary staff are often many in number and very well paid. Adults years out of college and still struggling to pay off student loans are in fact paying for many teachers and professors who are now teaching on very scant schedules with hefty salaries or are retired collecting ample pensions. I do hope some remedy, any remedy, will be found to ease this burden.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].

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