Scholarships are about connections, not cash
The cost of attending the University of Maryland’s campus in College Park this coming year is about $24,594, including room and board. And that’s if you are a resident of the state. Nonresidents will pay $45,742. At Georgetown University, the private school tab can run up to $64,540.
So at first blush, a one-time $10,000 scholarship from the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., amounts to little more than a down payment at best.
But as I learned last week, that grant can be a golden ticket— an entree to a special club for students willing to push the door open.
Take Nico Hinkle. He was a 2009 recipient of an Economic Club scholarship. Apoor kid from a rough D.C. neighborhood, just getting into a college was an accomplishment. But he recalled how club staff would check up on him, help him deal with the sudden loss of a father and run interference when he encountered red tape at Florida A&M University, so far from home.
“The money can only go so far,” said Hinkle, who became the first in his family to graduate college. The experiences he gained ultimately led to a job as a property associate at Brookfield Office Properties, managing one of its commercial buildings here.
Hinkle was the guest speaker at a ceremony on Thursday to honor this year’s recipients.
“Please don’t look at the Economic Club as just a money generator— look at it as a resource hub,” Hinkle told his fellow recipients.
Hinkle is being gracious. It’s impossible to overstate the fortitude he brought to his pursuit, the obstacles he had to overcome.
“My neighborhood was a hectic one, filled with drugs, violence and 24-hour police supervision. I was always losing a friend either by jail or death, and that took a toll on many. However, I persevered, and I refused to let my environment determine my future.”
When Hinkle received his money, a scholarship was pretty much the extent of the program. Over the years, the club has expanded the size and scope of the effort. It began offering seminars in business leadership. It bolted on a mentoring program. It is adding a formal internship component. To date, $2.4 million has been awarded to 292 students from Washington, including a new class of 48.
The growth of the program is due mostly to the largess of club president David M. Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group. Rubenstein, whose blue-collar parents never graduated high school, said he remembered what a boost it was to him to receive a scholarship. He got the idea of returning the favor after he took over as president of the Economic Club in 2008. Back then, the club was known mostly as a place to network, nosh and hear speeches from business bigwigs.
“I thought if we are a bunch of business people in Washington, and I would say more white than nonwhite, do we not have a responsibility to the community thatwe are part of, to give back to the community a little bit more than just having lunches and interviews?”
He put up some cash, figuring, “If it doesn’t work, how bad could it be to give people some money?”
It turns out the money was just a start.
Nico Hinkle, a 2009 scholarship winner, spoke on Thursday.