Each year Indian Hills alumnus Tom Arnold awards two scholarships to Indian Hills students. The scholarships award tuition, fees, required books, and required supply costs for one year (three terms). In addition, if the winners are students residing in the dormitories, an average of room and board costs will be included as part of the scholarship award.
To be eligible a student must compose a brief essay (500-1000 words) based on the theme given by Tom.
The theme for the 2017-18 Scholarship was:
“America just had an election and the country seems pretty divided. A lot of people
live in fear. The
great thing about America is we are such a diverse, resilient country. What can you do or have you done to help bring us all together?”
2017-18 Scholarship Winners
Our country has been in a state of turmoil for quite some time, I won't pretend to know what happens behind closed doors, or on a national level, but I can speak from a community perspective- and I know that many of the issues that are prominent in my community run parallel with community issues across the country. The stigma that surrounds individuals with substance abuse or mental health disorders is just as much an epidemic as the disorders themselves. This stigma is forming a proverbial crack in the foundation of our communities, thus weakening the collective unit - our country.
I work for a non-profit organization, primarily with individuals that have a criminal record, a history of substance abuse, a mental health diagnosis, or any combination of the three. The population we serve is diverse - every race, every social class, every sexual orientation. A true testimony to the indiscriminate nature of addictions and psychological disorders. These folks come in at their lowest, suffering and asking for help-many of them on parole or involved in the child welfare system. They feel shunned by society, ashamed of their past, and filled with hopelessness. My goal is to help them reach their goals, and more often than not, their first goal is to achieve and maintain sobriety. Whether they need help getting insurance, getting evaluated, finding transportation to treatment, or just a nonjudgmental ear to listen to them while they vent, I'm there.
Once they've achieved some clean-time, we start on other goals, such as family reunification,
licensing, employment, education. These physical things just scratch the surface,
though. The core of our program is to spend time with our clients, empathize with
them, and help them grow. I not only encourage them to advocate for themselves,
but practice communication skills with them, so they can have appropriate conversations
with their social workers, their employers, or even their families. When individuals
feel confident and validated, you can see them grow and become productive. They
start taking personal responsibility, start communicating with community members,
start being productive in society, and stop believing they are doomed to a
life of being "less than." I spent twelve years in the pit of hell known as addiction.
I remember looking at the "good" members of my community and thinking I would never
be good enough to sit at the same table, or even in the same room, with them. In my
deepest, darkest hour, a community member - a complete stranger - reached into the
fire and took my hand. They believed in me. They believed in me when I didn't even
believe in myself. Patient, compassionate members of my community stood beside me
while I fumbled and fought to become a better version of myself. That's what I will
continue to be to the people I serve- I will be the stranger that believes in them
and loves them until they can love and believe in themselves. If l hadn't had someone
willing to meet me where I was, at the very bottom, I wouldn't be where I am today.
For that reason, alone, I will dedicate my life to paying it forward.
There's an old adage that says, "You're only as strong as your weakest link". Cliché?
Yes. But true. How can we hope to be sturdy at the very top if our foundation isn't maintained? It's empowering to witness the resilience in our most broken souls, and see them reintegrate with confidence. Healthy, productive citizens build healthy, productive communities. Healthy, productive communities build a healthy, productive, unified country - from the ground, up.
Hushed hate crimes targeting races, religions, genders and cultures are on the rise in America today. Currently, our country is isolating the people into political parties as we split apart because of our refusal to see eye to eye. We're all so busy trying to get daggers in when someone turns around, doing the opposite of what the other is doing out of spite, and getting lost in details that don't matter. I believe that our country is a melting pot, and that we can't move forward if we all go in different directions, refusing to work with one another. We have to set aside our differences, find a common goal to work towards to unite to heal our country's gashes and use knowledge and humanity to glue us back together.
To begin, something we all have in common is we all share the same home. America is our soil, and a history lesson is all someone needs to learn what it was built on. Diversity is the key to America, the welcoming of different races, cultures, heritages. The more modern version of that is sexualities, genders, and religions. We started off as a melting pot; we should not be resisting change with archaic views. Holding on to old ideals is only going to slow progress for us in the longer run. By accepting change, and accepting the people that come with it, we've already built a bond with each other to help move us forward. The labels we have to distinguish political views serve as walls and borders, ironically, and we don't need anything else to separate us. At the end of the day, we all bleed the same color, we all inhale the same air. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we are American. We spend more time hating each other for our differences than we do loving each other for what we share.
As a country, we need to be a team. I'm vice president of Allies for Equality at Indian Hills; we teach about the differences in genders, sexualities, and other social issues to build a bridge to understanding everyone. I plan on joining more clubs that dea1 with relevant issues to work to educate and address the cracks in our unity. I think a lot of people are able to accomplish prejudice because they cannot relate to the situations others end up in. If someone has never faced discrimination against race, they cannot see what is wrong with it. I am half Chinese and grew up in a county where racism came in abundance, and I had to build a strong back bone. I don't want others to face what I did, and want people to see from the other side. I advocate for the people who lack a voice, but my goal is not to attack, it's to enlighten. I feel like ignorance is a key factor in prejudice, and prejudice leads to- a bigger divide in our country. I work to stay informed and stand my ground in politics, but to teach, not to preach. We need to realize that the time we spend fighting against each other, is time we waste working towards a better country for ourselves. A country that harbors so much hate isn't a country ready to grow.
Adding onto that, I personally believe that the seed to a better world is kindness. I would love for that to start in America. How can anyone say that time is wasted when it feeds the growth to a better world? Our sights are set too high, I think, and we need to hone in on the cracks in the foundation we have in our own country. We need to work to mending them, and that requires teamwork. Kindness, I believe, will lead the country in the right direction. We need to work to listen to learn, not to reply and lash out. If we treat each other with kindness and respect, I believe that eventually we can boil down to a compromise that will be building blocks for a better society. This is a change that takes complete commitment because we are working towards changing an entire mindset. Politicians need to be setting the right example, putting the right foot forward and learning to shake the oppositions hand without an internal grimace.
As Americans, we are concerned for ourselves. I believe the right kind of projects that should be set out in America is tending to each other which requires empathy. I personally believe in positivity and the idea that kindness costs nothing, and should be given out to us. I share this message in my daily life, as well as in poetry readings. A lot of my performance poetry is potent with messages that address humans acting with humanity. A strong hope of mine is to be a motivational speaker one day, so I can work to spread my message to have open arms and understanding welcome the world, instead of hate. I had done a few motivational speaker projects in high school for Youth Leadership Academy, and I don't plan on leaving these dreams in high school.
I dream of a world where Republicans and Democrats all mend the broken bridges to work for a better world. Maybe one day those identifiers won't exist. Congress will be a room full of people who all want the same thing for our country, and are willing to work with each other and compromise to lead America to a healthier day and age. To start off, we must forgive each other for the hate, work to understand and empathize with one another, and choose kindness over cruelty.
Our country is flawed, but we the people are a big part of that. By sacrificing our pride to take each other's hands and help lift our society to a better platform, we will mend our foundation that will be better to stand on, united against hate.