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Rotary's scholarships to SPJC go unsought

Midtown Rotary Club blames school counselors for not alerting high school seniors that its full scholarships are available.

By MIKE SAEWITZ

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Mary McBride said high school counselors have ignored her calls, her attempts to notify students about the two-year college scholarships the St. Petersburg Midtown Rotary Club awards to graduating seniors each year.

"We've decided not to even contact the schools this year because it's a waste of time," said McBride, who heads a committee that in May will award eight students scholarships to St. Petersburg Junior College.

The scholarships have historically been hard to give away, in part, because schools fail to adequately let students and parents know the awards are available, McBride and other committee members said.

At this time last year, even after McBride had been in touch with Boca Ciega, Gibbs and Lakewood high schools, the Rotary Club had received only one application for six scholarships to SPJC. The scholarships, which are worth an estimated $3,500 each, cover full tuition and books for two years.

Committee member Bob DeGraaf said the scholarships were aimed toward graduating seniors from the three high schools in the Rotary's area.

"(The schools) probably put a notice on a bulletin board," DeGraaf said. "But that's about it."

An article about the situation appeared in the St. Petersburg Times in April 2000. Within days, parents and students who had read the story wrote to the club, asking for applications, McBride said. The number of applications jumped from one to 26, McBride said.

"(The article) is what got our applications last year," McBride said. "It was tough having to narrow the applicants down."

The club received requests from SPJC students and even a couple of 30- and 40-year-olds who wanted to attend SPJC, DeGraaf said.

Eligible students must have a 2.5 grade-point average in high school. They must demonstrate a financial need, as well as their intentions to be a full-time student, she said. Students must consent to a brief interview with the committee. Students must also have a grade-point average of 2.0 or higher at SPJC to keep the scholarship.

The club raised the money for the scholarships from a late September golf tournament. The club used to sell Christmas trees to raise the money.

McBride said the club has received one application so far. The deadline is April 30, and decisions will be made by the end of May.

To send for an application, write to: St. Petersburg Midtown Rotary Club, P.O. Box 10328, St. Petersburg, FL 33733, Attention: Scholarship Committee. The club asks people not to call.

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