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Community Highlight: 49 high school students granted scholarships by one Riverside organization

The Assistance League of Riverside chapter (ALR) awarded $49,000 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors across the city in what is their largest pool of recipients yet.

In close cooperation with Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class instructors, the ALR Career and College Bound committee normally raises funds to grant high school juniors the funds needed to attend college tours throughout California. As the COVID-19 pandemic halted all plans for in-person visits, ALR focused its budget on seniors who are preparing for their first year of university.

Out of the 56 students who applied for the $1,000 scholarships, 49 were awarded.

“We’ve always given these scholarships to graduating seniors, but to 10 of them, and last year there were 16 given out,” said Pat Brinker, chairperson for the Career and College Bound committee. “We rolled around the end of this year and we still had our whole budget left. That’s why we gave 49 scholarships this year.”

Brinker said although college visits are normally the committee’s priority and will continue to be so in future years, each of the 49 recipients was unlike most they have encountered. The 14-volunteer selection committee read the 56 essays and was moved by each of the students’ personal lives.

“I must say, I was blown away,” Brinker said. “I could not believe some of these kids’ life stories … A lot of them have gone hungry or been homeless and almost all of them are the first person in their family to attend college.”

Brinker said each awardee exhibited the activity and dedication needed to thrive in a collegiate setting.

“If I come across someone who starts criticizing today’s high school students, I’ve got a lot of ammunition for them,” Brinker said. “One girl is working 40 hours a week on top of her high school requirements because she knew she wasn’t going to get to go to school unless she earned money.”

The ALR philanthropic branches reach in several directions outside of the Career and College Bound program.

Operation School Bell provides low-income school-aged children with new clothing for their school year. Snack Attack is a program that focuses on those who are food insecure by distributing meal packages to children who may not know if they will have access to food outside of school hours.

While each program the ALR invests in was hindered in some way because of the pandemic, Brinker said the chapter was still able to affect change in the lives of Riverside students and looks forward to doing so in the future.