Last week, Kiwanis Clubs from around the South Bay came together to raise money for the area clubs’ Turnaround Scholarship program. The evening at Campbell’s Villa Ragusa featured wine tasting from a special selection of California vintages, an extensive spread of hors d’oeuvres, a raffle and silent auction attended by over 500 guests.
Over the years the Turnaround Scholarship has given over $2 million to more than 7,000 young people.
The annual event—now more than half a century old—is a joint effort on the part of South Bay Kiwanis clubs, including Santa Clara, to help young people who are often overlooked by scholarship programs.
These are students who have had to confront difficulties that include teenage pregnancy, learning disabilities, dysfunctional families, poverty, addiction or any one of a host of well-documented problems that can throw students off-course. Despite the obstacles, scholarship recipients have turned their lives around and are headed for college or vocational school
The $1,000 to $2,000 scholarships not only enable students to attend college or specialized career education, the program also helps them to succeed when they get there by providing counseling and college orientation classes. Students can continue to get scholarships as long as they maintain 10 to 12 credits.
This year the program will give out $160,000 in scholarships, said Master of Ceremonies, Dan Connelly, many of them to returning students.
“There is no better investment for the future than these young people,” said keynote speaker, San José State University President Mary Papazian. “These young people will return much more than we invest in them.”
Despite the fact that our complex, automated society makes education more necessary than ever before, the barriers to that education grow at an equal pace.
“Funding of our public colleges has plummeted,” said Papazian. “At the same time housing and college costs have exploded. Some of our students are housing insecure, food insecure.”
Yet, she said, “they have not seen these things as obstacles they can’t overcome.” In overcoming these obstacles, said Papazian, the Turnaround Scholarship students show “skills that employers value and the resilience to overcome problems.”
In her concluding remarks Papazian said she could see “the cumulative fire” of decades of Kiwanis dedication to educational goals. “San José State stands ready to empower these students so they can become mentors to another generation of Turnaround scholars.”
The evening’s $1,000 grand prize drawing—donated by the Shortino Foundation, which also made a $75,000 matching grant to the program—went to Cathie Ferris of Morgan Hill.
School districts participating in the program will have luncheons in May to honor scholarship recipients. Santa Clara Unified and Campbell Union High School districts will honor their Turnaround Scholarship winners on May 17, at 12:30 p.m. at The Flames restaurant in San José. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP with Dave Burnham at (408) 268-4520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to understand Kiwanis International’s mission, there’s no better place to start than the service club’s motto: “Changing the world one child and one community at a time.”
You can see that mission is at work close to home in local programs like the club’s annual Fish Derby, which gives local children a morning of fishing and fun. You can also see it at work internationally in Kiwanis’ 15-year-old campaign, in cooperation with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders (IDD). Iodine deficiency can cause stillbirth, miscarriage and mental retardation.
While more than 80 percent of the world’s population overall has iodized salt, in some parts of Africa and Asia 60 to 80 percent of people do not, according to UNICEF’s 2018 statistics.
Santa Clara Kiwanis meets every Tuesday for lunch at Mariani’s Restaurant, 2500 El Camino Real at 12:15 p.m. Visitors are always welcome. For information, visit sckiwanis.biz.nf or call 408-247-7675. For information about Kiwanis International, visit www.kiwanis.org.