Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

January 17, 2013

Dialing up money for college

TW ‘Dollars for Scholars’ campaign returns

Bart Doan

PITTSBORO — Cold calling local residents might seem like an intimidating endeavor, but as Tri-West High School students enter the third year of their fundraising phone-a-thon, it’s becoming routine.

The program continues to grow and now allows $1,000 scholarships for 31 students. This year, students from ninth to 12th grades will be calling area residents from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 and from noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 24.

“The first year we did it, we thought we’d shoot for three scholarships,” said Kathy Waite of Tri-West Dollars for Scholars, “and it’s been amazing. The community has responded so well.”

Last year, 18 students were awarded scholarships. Waite says the process of choosing scholarship winners is completely anonymous.

“We have five judges and they are anonymous,” she said. “They are all folks who have strong ties to the community and come from every corner of the community, successful in their chosen fields. They read all of the essays and scholarships are awarded solely on the essay ranking.”

She said that the names of the students are taken off of the essays and they are simply given numbers, giving anonymity on both ends.

This year, the essay focus is to persuade a hypothetical student who can choose any high school in the state to make their choice Tri-West. Waite said the essays typically focus on something relating back to their experiences at the school. She also said that the strength of the program is in the community.

“That’s the secret to our success,” she said. “The community really enjoys sponsoring our kids. They really enjoy supporting our kids. The kids do all the work. They’re the ones calling people in their homes and it’s tough to say no to a kid who’s asking you to help them (with their education).”

Waite said that the most common donation is $25. Last year, she added, they had more than 500 people pledge some sort of donation.

“A big challenge we thought we’d have was making people aware, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find people in our school system who don’t know about it,” Waite said.

One of the differences this year is that the program has expanded its caller base.

“We started by using the phone books, but a lot of people are dropping their land lines so we’re able to access the school database, and we also have a school website so we have more numbers to call this year,” Waite explained.

The Dollars for Scholars idea was gleaned from Waite’s hometown of Speedway, where the program has been aiding students for decades. They presented the program in 2010 to Tri-West and it stuck. Since then, Tri-West has played the idea forward to places like Cloverdale and the concept has become a successful and unique way of raising scholarship funds for local students.

“I think when you have a community that’s close-knit like ours, it’s just a really good way to raise money,” she said. “Speedway Dollars for Scholars helped us immensely.”

As for students asking for donations, Waite said it’s never a problem.

“It’s amazing how quickly they lose their nerves,” she said. “Many times they know the people they’re calling because it’s a small community, but after they get a few phone calls under their belt, they’re pretty comfortable.”

Anyone who would like to be added to the call list may e-mail their phone number to Scholarship@hendricks.k12.in.us. For more information, visit the Tri-West High School website at twhs.hendricks.k12.in.us.