A scholarship program named after the only Iowan to become president is targeting high school juniors statewide — and they have until month’s end to apply. Pat Hand is the academic programs manager at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association and says they give out some $27,000 every year to outstanding Iowa teenagers.
“The Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award takes its name from a speech that Herbert Hoover wrote about the opportunities we have in this country to be uncommon,” Hand says. “What he said was, he encouraged young people to avoid the ‘cult of mediocrity,’ and what we are looking for those juniors across the state of Iowa who are avoiding the cult of mediocrity.”
The program was launched in 1998 and now offers cash awards to around 15 students each year. Students chosen for the program receive a $1,000 stipend, while three of the students get $5,000 scholarships for study at an accredited two- or four-year college or university anywhere in the country. Hand says they’re not necessarily looking for straight-A students.
“We don’t choose to find them through grades and test scores or essays,” Hand says. “We ask the students to apply with a project proposal, something they want to accomplish, and in that proposal, they should be pretty detailed about how they’re going to do it. What we’re looking for is students who have a different idea, who are ambitious and who are set apart from their peers in some way.” While many scholarship programs are geared toward high school seniors, Hand says this program focuses on 11th graders.
“The reason that we ask juniors to apply for this program is so that they have that summertime in between their junior and senior year to work on their project,” Hand says. “Then in October, they come to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch and they make a presentation about what they have done over those past few months.” The projects may involve anything from raising money for an overseas orphanage to fixing up a local hiking or biking trail. Hand says Boy Scouts are encouraged to pursue similar service projects as they work toward the ultimate rank.
“Eagle Scouts are a very good match for this program and 4H students are as well,” Hand says. “Students from large schools and small schools, we’ve had it all. I would say it comes down to a student who really wants to make a difference in his or her corner of the world. That’s probably the bottom line.”
The deadline for submitting an application is March 31st. The award is funded entirely by private donations. For more information, visit “www.hooverassociation.org” or call 800-828-0475.