Guest blog by Debra Albers, ALA National Education Committee Chair
Remember ramen noodles or that peanut butter and jelly or tuna and cheese sandwich? Did you take all your laundry home to wash it and raid your parents’ pantry when you visited? Did you sell your student football tickets to home games? Did you sell your plasma? What did you have to do to make ends meet while financing your college education?
Times have changed and so have the costs related to attending a higher institution of learning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a college education per year in 2016-17 at a public institution was $13,800 and nearly double that that for a private university at $26,800.
A study by Forbes found that students who borrowed money and graduated in 2017 ended their college career with a debt of $28,650. Since then, the cost of college has continued to rise, making financial aid and scholarships even more vital.
To help out, the American Legion Auxiliary has a handful of National scholarships to assist with finances, helping deserving students receive a college education.
Amanda Washburn graduated from high school in Ashland, Neb. in 2013, and was the beneficiary of the Spirit of Youth scholarship that year. She was a Junior member since birth and has continued her membership as a senior member of the American Legion Auxiliary.
“Receiving the ALA Spirit of Youth scholarship was life changing for me. The scholarship helped me pay for my tuition for my first year of college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and be able to focus on my classes and homework instead of how I was going to afford school,” Washburn said.
Leah Schmidt of Deshler, Neb., graduated high school in 2019, and received one of the three Children of Warriors National President’s scholarships given in the Northwestern Division last spring.
“This scholarship has helped me pay for college and pursue a degree,” Schmidt said. Leah happened to be a Junior member, but it was not necessary she be a member to apply.
Both young women were eligible to apply for these scholarships through their grandfather’s service and mentioned that it was important that they recognized the option to apply came from that connection. “It also means that I am able to honor a veteran like my grandfather. Even though I may have never met him, I know he would have been someone that I would have looked up to,” Schmidt said.
Washburn agreed. “Being a Junior member afforded me the opportunity to apply for this scholarship and honor the service of both of my grandfathers.”
These two scholarships have made a huge difference to these two individuals. Amanda currently works for the Legion in the Department of Nebraska and is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary’s National Education Committee. Leah is a freshman at a private institution and has plans to become an occupational therapist working with disabled farmers and ranchers.
Leah will be eligible to apply for the new Junior Member Loyalty Scholarship as a college student if she continues her membership as a senior member. Ten $2,500 will be given this spring, two in each Division. Students in either a college or technical school are qualified to apply if they have continuous membership for three years and have maintained at least a 3.0 average GPA.
Other scholarships available to graduating high school seniors are the Children of Warriors National Presidents’ scholarship worth $5,000 with three awarded in each Division, and the Spirit of Youth scholarship available to Junior members granting $5,000 to a recipient in each Division. One Non-Traditional Student Scholarship is awarded annually in the amount of $2,000 in each division to a student returning to school to pursue an education or training in a trade, professional, or technical program.
Our scholarships may not prevent that student from relying on ramen noodles for sustenance, raiding their parents’ pantry, or bringing all their laundry home, but they may help make a small dent in an individual student’s debt. Please consider making a donation today for this important cause.
“I am forever grateful to the ALA and its members for choosing me as a recipient of the ALA Spirit of Youth scholarship. Thank you to everyone who donates to the ALA National scholarships and continues to support the mission of our great organization,” Washburn said.
For more information on scholarships and applications, to apply, or donate, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org/Scholarships.