Youth Opportunity Scholarships: Fostering the Passions of Low-Income Youth
The following blog post was written by Nicole Giles, PVF’s summer intern. During her time at PVF, Nicole worked specifically on the Youth Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships of up to $500 to low-income middle school students in order to pursue an extracurricular activity. This program aims to instill a sense of value and worth in these youth as well as encourage them to dream big and develop new passions.
“Youth Opportunity Scholarship” entails a lot more than the name suggests. Far too often, people living in low-income communities, primarily people of color, are forced to realize at a young age that they are navigating a system not designed for them. This means that they will not be afforded the same opportunities for success, enrichment, and growth. Something as simple as taking a summer cooking class, exploring a new sport, or learning to play an instrument are not opportunities made available to these youth. What the Youth Opportunity Scholarship does is provide a chance for these students to explore an activity they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. This exploration has the potential to develop into a lifelong hobby or passion, and developing a passion paves the way for an unmarked drive and determination to dream. Given that society has again and again reiterated the narrative that your success in life is determined by factors such as your zip code or the color of your skin, a dream may not be something made available to these kids and scholarship recipients.
My time working with this program has been rewarding to say the least. Whether it was the chuckle I got out of a student saying they deserved to receive the scholarship because they’re “really really awesome” or the tightness I felt in my chest when a student mentioned they wanted to learn a new skill because they want to prove to the world their life is worth something (as if in their short thirteen years of life they’ve already been told otherwise). Reading through the scholarship essays was by far my favorite part of the process. Kids at this age are so honest and open about their passions and feelings that I felt as though I was actually getting to know each student through their writing. It made the experience all the more personable and it reiterated for me that this scholarship does in fact make a difference to these students. In the grand scheme of things, this $500 of funding may not seem like much but it’s an opportunity that goes a long way. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this scholarship process.