Thursday, June 29, 2017

Outstanding Florida Millennials Recognized

Almost two years ago, I was invited to attend an informational meeting about an organization called Kids' Chance. I was familiar with it generally, but the meeting was nonetheless very informative. Kids' Chance provides scholarships for the kids of workers seriously injured in a workers' compensation accident.  A few months later, in December 2015, I attended the organizational meeting of Kids' Chance of Florida (http://www.kidschancefl.org/). 

The spring of 2016 was busy as this fledgling organization sought to become organized and functional. In August 2016, at the ripe old age of eight months, KCOF awarded its first scholarships. Fifteen thousand dollars awarded in its first year. It is unfathomable to me that a year has passed since, seems like last week. Last Thursday, Bob Wilson wrote a post about this year's scholarships (don't tell him I told you, he said "don't tell anybody"). He announced that KCOF awarded nine scholarships this year, totaling $33,000. As this toddler organization nears its second birthday, a total of $48,000 will have been dispensed to deserving young people. KCOF also purchased two Florida Pre-Paid tuition plans this year, which will be deployed in 2018 and 2019. It is growing, developing, helping, and planning for its future. 

I want to also mention the Friends of 440 Scholarship Fund, Inc. It has a similar mission, and some overlap of purpose. It awards scholarships to students who are connected to workers' compensation either because of an injury to a parent or guardian, similar to Kids' Chance, or because a parent or guardian is involved in this industry. Thus, it has some similar goals, but a somewhat broader approach. The Friends of 440 has been awarding scholarships since 1992. It has awarded over $1.6 million dollars over those years, and awarded $64,000.00 in 2017. To date, the Friends of 440 has impacted the lives of over 800 students, with 31 of those being awarded in 2017!

The Friends of 440 has had an amazing impact across Florida. Last year I wrote a post about the Friends' scholarship selection process, How I Spent my Saturday. It struck me then how exceptional those applicants were. They were "focused, intelligent, conversational, respectful, gregarious, effusive, enthusiastic, grateful, dignified, poised, and downright impressive, with a particular emphasis on impressive." I did not make it to the Friends' interview meeting this summer, but I am sure it was more of the same. I am pleased that there are some students that are being assisted by both the Friends and Kids' Chance. 

I did attend the Kids' Chance of Florida meeting that Bob Wilson blogged about though. I enjoy reading Bob's posts, and his perspectives are always pertinent, witty and wise. But, in his post last week he did not mention a few things that I think are also worthy of mention:

These Kids' Chance scholarships are helping fund the pursuit of degrees in accounting, business, psychology, engineering, medicine, and more. These exceptional young people have set their sites high. Dreaming big dreams is the foundation of achieving big things. 

Despite the challenges of an injured or ill family member, these students have been engaged in their family lives, schools and communities. The Kids' Chance students are involved in athletics, DECA (for students interested in marketing, management and entrepreneurship), Interact (a Rotary Club affiliate), Key Club (Kiwanis affiliate),  The American Red Cross, The National Honor Society, Helping Hands Club, and a spectrum of other academic and professional fraternities and societies. 

Some of these students graduated high school with 4.0 grade point averages (of higher; back in the day a 4.0 was the highest, but that has changed). Some graduated high school with an Associate Degree. Some submitted college transcripts documenting their outstanding college grades, which mirrored all that high school achievement (I never had a 4.0 semester in college, but some of these students have). Some were named to the dean’s lists, or similar recognitions. 

Some were employed during high school. They volunteered for such things as environmental efforts, tutoring of younger students, elementary school field day, the annual breast cancer walk, the Head Start Program, helping families in need of social services, and as Sunday school volunteers. As one example of a letter of recommendation said, one student contributed to “countless community service activities." Another letter said one student was "leaping tall buildings to achieve” dreams. 

I am frankly astounded by these students. They are rising up against challenges that many will never face. They are setting (and achieving) goals professionally and personally. They are the building blocks of a better tomorrow, through academic success, hard work and community involvement. These were the kids my mom told me I should hang around with when I was in high school!

Now, let's face the fact that young people today can get a bad rap. That is nothing new. I remember the older generation talking down "these kids today" back when I was one. This spring, I attended a local high school awards night and learned there are a great many who are achieving, persevering, and succeeding. The successes are inspiring. But, remember that these kids of the workers' compensation world have each overcome some additional challenges, emotional, financial, and familial to reach this point. They are great examples of dedication and focus. I am proud of them (I struggle not to tell you their names and particulars, but I also respect their privacy). 

2018 will see Kids' Chance of Florida into its "terrible twos." It is known as an age of struggle in any life, with growing independence, confidence, and achievement. I look forward to seeing Kids' Chance enter this next phase of its success, maturation, and grow. I know from watching the Friends of 440 that the effort, dedication, and focus of many professionals can achieve tremendous outcomes, positively affecting many lives. Did I mention that Friends has disbursed $1.6 million dollars assisting over 800 students over 25 years!?!? Well Kids' Chance is going to be able to say something similar one day soon, and it is off to a phenomenal start. I tip my hat to both organizations.

The goals of these two groups is similar. I am proud of their shared goal of providing educational assistance to the kids of those who suffer injuries at work. It is a laudable goal, and it is working right here in Florida. But even more, I am proud of these young people who are so determined to be successful and contributing members of our society. I am confident that there is not one among them that will not be turning back, when safe on the other side of this educational quest, and helping us or someone else to build a bridge for the youth who must yet pass this way. 

And finally, I am thankful that there are dedicated professionals pouring their time, effort and emotion into these special students. I congratulate and applaud all of the people that volunteer for these worthy organizations. Thank you all for helping to build a bridge for these outstanding young people, who are our future!