Over the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of scholarship applications.  There are endowed, memorial scholarships that support deserving students.  These, as well as other scholarships, are often supported by benefactors who sit quietly in the background and enjoy supporting students who have overcome uncommon struggles to be successful.  Some of the amazing stories speak to a level of struggle many have never known due to privilege.  And yet, in the heart of these stories are students who have overcome struggle through flinching and unflinching determination.  Their tenacity is an excellent example of “Grit.”  The people who have been there for them when they flinched deserve some credit too.

Maya Angelou wrote about “overcoming” in a Facebook post on April 18th.  She said, “The idea of overcoming is always fascinating because few of us realize how much energy we have expended just to be here today.  I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for the overcoming.”  Truly, most of us don’t realize the struggles many of our students and their families have faced and currently face to be here today.  Reading some of their stories reminds me how important it is to be there for others and to support them; you never really know the depth of their struggles, but you can contribute to their success.  This choice of caring and compassion occurs when we pause amid the business of the day to ask ourselves if our focus is in the right place.  Research shows that caring people don’t always stop to help when they feel hurried or are running late (Darley and Batson, 1973).   The best of who we are takes the time to help and contribute to others’ wellbeing and success.

At the events where awards and scholarships are given, the deserving recipients often move to the front of the room with a variety of emotions that include joy, pride, gratefulness, and humility.  As they advance to the front, the spirits of their family and mentors follow them; visually, the one does not equate to the sum.  One of the most touching moments last week was when a student in the Education Opportunity program received a rarely-given honor.  Before the name was announced, there were stories of overcoming and a student in the front row began to cry tears of strength and gratitude.  Once the name was announced (she is a student in our Division), this student, wearing a black sweater, went to the front of the room to receive a pin as everyone stood and clapped.  With the pin in hand, she went to a woman in the audience who had supported her and asked the woman to place the pin on her sweater.  The person putting the pin on the student was emotionally struck by the moment, making it clear that the student receiving the award was not the only winner.  The audience members were humbled.

I look forward to attending more events in the coming weeks that honor our students.  I also know these honors go quietly to many people in the background who have supported award recipients.  In the end, if we take the time to help others, we all win.  Thank you for being there for our students and for each other.

Shared Values Highlighted: Helping Students Achieve Goals; Professionalism


Image (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2014 from:

Darley, J. M., & Batson, C.D. (1973).  From Jerusalem to Jericho: A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 100-108.