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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shopping for Scholarships

I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning with forty-eight learners who assembled this weekend far removed from the newspaper headlines and television sound bites that cast public school education in a negative light. These accomplished individuals arrived at the Desmond Albany Hotel and Conference Center as candidates for thousands of dollars in scholarship money provided by the Golub Corporation, a family-in-business headquartered in Schenectady and operating Price Chopper supermarkets throughout a six state region. The Golub Foundation has distributed millions of dollars in support of learning since forming the foundation in 1981, from this scholarship service to sponsoring influential educational seminars. Interestingly, the founders of the company, two sons of a hardworking and determined Russian immigrant, opened the area's first "one-stop shopping" outlet in their first store, called Public Service Market, in Green Island in 1932. There are now over 120 stores spread across New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

I was a member of the committee charged with the responsibility of reviewing the resumes of the high school and college learners and deciding which of them would receive the prestigious awards. The learners emerged after a screening committee sorted through over 1,200 applicants. The process was very difficult because the quality of performance and the promise of future achievements among the forty-eight candidates was exceptionally high. It was unfortunate that some would leave the experience without a scholarship. However, each of the candidates and their families were recognized at a dinner held in their honor Friday evening in the ballroom of the Desmond. In addition, they were guests of the foundation and received lodging at the hotel along with breakfast this morning.

It was a humbling experience for the committee members, all of whom have served long careers as educational leaders and earned doctorate degrees. Despite the lengthy experience and interactions with our share of brilliant learners along the journey, these candidates were awe inspiring. Their applications not only boasted superior achievement in the classroom, but also included a variety of extra-curricular activities as well as community service projects. As I said, it was a humbling experience. But, it was also a reaffirming experience too. The remarkable accomplishments of the candidates prove that despite the stream of media criticism often directed at public schools there is sufficient positive evidence that the future will be inherited and enhanced by the learners of today.

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