By Professor Laura Dorsey, SE Regional Vice President of Infinite Scholars
Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. The power of education extends beyond the development of the skills we need for economic success. Nelson Mandela uttered one of his most famous quotes at Madison Park High School, Boston, MA, in 1990. Thomas Ousley, an English teacher at Jennings High School in Missouri, also believes this, and in 2003 he envisioned the Infinite Scholars Program (ISP). The mission is simple: provide all deserving students, especially financially disadvantaged students and students of diversity, the guidance and access to financial resources they need to further their education and pursue degrees at institutions of higher learning. For almost two decades, this was accomplished by facilitating scholarship fairs in 27 cities across the country. Scholarship fairs provide an opportunity for students to engage directly with college admissions representatives from hundreds of colleges and universities from all over the United States regarding scholarships. In the last six years alone, ISP has interacted with 62,793 students and facilitated $754,097,584.00 in scholarships, many of those scholarships awarded on the spot at the various fairs. ISP was looking forward to continuing the success, and then 2020 happened.
The beginning of this school year is looking different than years past. Virtual is the new word. High schoolers are now navigating their education online for the first time, upending the only learning and college-preparatory structure students and their parents have ever known. The new world is disproportionately impacting financially disadvantaged students. The physical fairs of the past are not an option, and like many of the 450+ colleges and universities that are part of our system, we are going to have to learn a new word, Virtual. Students will be looking for new ways to explore college and scholarship opportunities, and just like their education will be virtual, so will their scholarship search. With this in mind, ISP has been working all summer to develop our Virtual Scholarship Fair.
There are some significant benefits to our Virtual Scholarship Fair. The major advantage is that it is FREE. Upon doing the research, you can find many college fair options, and for many, there is a cost. Infinite Scholars never charges the colleges and universities that are part of our network, and neither do we charge students and their parents. Physical fairs of the past may have been challenging to navigate with crowds and lines or times that were not convenient to all. This new virtual format brings the colleges and their scholarships directly to students and their families, literally into your home. In the past, time may have prevented you from visiting each of the 50+ colleges that would usually attend a fair. In this new format, students and their parents will be able to schedule 1-on-1 sessions with college reps at a time that is convenient for them. Some of the colleges will be able to offer scholarships on the spot. Given this extra time, students will discover colleges they never heard of before, and parents will find scholarship money they did not know existed.
The students and their families of today are demanding that scholarship opportunities be appropriate for the situation and the environment we find ourselves in. Like many parts of the education process, this virtual scholarship fair will be what the students and their parents make of it. At ISP, we present the student and their support system with the information, where they can find it, and what they need to know when they get there. Here is to your success because at Infinite Scholars, we know, “The Possibilities are Infinite”.