High School Graduation season has passed, and the summer before freshman year is underway.  After all of the scholarship presentations are made, let's reflect. 

Last Saturday night, I was one of many that enjoyed the annual "Denim and Diamonds" fundraiser for the Cleburne County Cattleman's Assocation at Chimney Rock Cattle Co. in Concord, AR.  Everything that I can think of to mention was outstanding - the venue, the food, the entertainment, the fellowship.  Though I could write a great deal on these, I would like to take a moment to say "Thank you" to the CCA and to other organizations who work so hard to provide scholarships for students. 

Thank you for financially helping students - college is an investment.  Tuition, fees, books, and supplies all cost money, but these costs come at a critical time in a student's life.  For many students, leaving for college marks the beginning of their independence.  Some students will live apart from their parents for the first time, and some students will be responsible for their own cost of living, but all will take steps on the journey to independence.  Even with tuition and direct educational costs paid, students need finanical help to make the most of their experience.

Thank you for rewarding scholarship - scholarships are awarded on various criteria.  Most scholarships award or at least acknowledge academic performance.  One of the saddest commentaries on our culture is that some students are teased for earning superior grades in school.  It is refreshing to see students rewarded for doing well in their studies.

Thank you for encouraging service - academic achievement is definitely worthy of award, but many organizations have concluded that more is required.  For example, the Cleburne County Rotary Club awards scholarships that take community service into consideration.  Students who win these scholarships have already indicated by their actions that they will be productive members of society.  They have learned to give back to the community by helping others.  We need desperately to commend and recognize these efforts.

Thank you for encouraging performance - There are students who have the opportunity to earn an education because of a performance-based scholarship.  At the Cattlemen's Association dinner, each student recognized was outstanding in some aspect of agriculture. There are heated discussions about the merits of athletic scholarships, but whether it is playing a musical instrument, performing in theatre, playing a marquis sport, or even playing sports that are not consistently aired on network television, students are given the chance to gain so much more than a trophy by going to college.

Thank you for reminding students of their community - every time a local organization, be it the Cattleman's Association, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, etc, awards scholarships, there is a message directly to the student that says "your community cares about you."  That message is so important because these students will soon choose where to work and live.  Will they leave our small-town Arkansas community to live elsewhere?  Will they take with them their skills, their time, their energy, and move to another state?  Perhaps they will, but if we remind them that this community loves and cares for them, they may come right back home to work and to raise families. 

So finally, thank you to all of the organizations that spend so much time and work so hard all year to provide scholarships for students.  The scholarship dinners, golf tournaments, Boston-butt sales, concerts, concession stands, etc, really mean something to these students and to our community.