After completing their most intense training of the season at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, alpine skiers Cassady Roberts ’13 and Katie Houser ’13 would change into their professional attire at the base lodge and head right to school.
But they weren’t heading back to Colby. They were heading to the Williams Elementary School, as part of the Future of Maine Scholarship Program, a Students for Education Reform (SFER) program that on Tuesday awarded 8 local 4th and 6th graders $100 scholarships to college.
Roberts, the current president of SFER, and Houser, an integral part of the program, spent their JanPlans organizing college workshops for students at the Williams Elementary School in Oakland and the Benton Middle School. In these workshops, they spoke to students about choosing majors, living in dorms, and eating in the dining halls. Yes, it was possible to study video game design, they would tell students. Yes, there was unlimited pizza and ice cream in the dining halls every night.
At the end of their workshops, they presented students and their teachers an essay prompt, asking students why they wanted to go to college and what they would major in if they went.
After raising $800 for the program through a series of SFER-run raffles on campus, they were able to award $100 scholarships to eight students who submitted prompts.
Roberts said the most difficult part of the program was the fundraising. “The fundraising process started all the way back in October and involved a lot of logistics and communication, not to mention heckling everyone in Pulver for their money, but knowing that 100 percent of the money came from current Colby students is really satisfying,” Roberts said.
Equally difficult was choosing eight winners from a pool of almost eighty. But for Roberts and Houser, Tuesday’s ceremony made it all worthwhile.
“At first, you wonder if it's a big deal to the kids, if they really care about it, and whether they'll even show up. Then they come streaming in the door all dressed up with their siblings, parents, and grandparents in tow. At least one has a camera or a video camera, and all look equally proud. It's awesome how seriously the kids take it, you can tell it means a lot to them,” Houser said.
And as the scholarship winners and their extended families filed out of the filled-to-capacity Diamond room the ceremony was held in, the two juniors were thankful. Not only did they award eight scholarships and bring over 80 members of the Waterville community to campus, but also they had started a much larger conversation.
“I think our actions are making a quiet but powerful impact on the students we talk to in a way that they might not have ever experienced,” Roberts said. “I think if anything, we are beginning the conversation for them and inciting a curiosity that might otherwise not have ever been triggered.”
Kareem Kalil '13 is the founding member of Colby's SFER chapter.