Last December, just before the holiday break, Rotarians heard from Dr. Philip Ballinger, special advisor to for the University of Washington's Presidential Scholars Initiative. At the time, Rotarians asked to be able to support the program and to be kept abreast of its development. Dr. Ballinger provides the club an update on the program.
 
Dr. Ballinger notes that some of our young people in Washington amaze us by their commitment and work to serve others and their communities. Sometimes these students do not show up on high school 'radars' that traditionally focus on highest competitive academics, athletic achievement, or relative social popularity. And yet, some of our most promising young people are quietly doing astonishing things to help others and their communities.  We want to identify and recognize these vital future community builders and leaders in Washington!
 
Four years ago, former Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayers and his wife Pam endowed an initiative and scholarship at the University of Washington to support finding these often-unheralded young people and keep them in Washington State.  Dr. Ballinger continues to look across Washington for students who already demonstrate striking, self-initiated, and persistent engagement and leadership within their communities to address needs they have encountered or experienced. This program -- with its associated major four-year scholarship -- is called 'the Presidential Scholars Initiative' at the University of Washington. In short, we would bring these students to the UW on a near full-tuition scholarship as well as mentor them in developing their leadership potential.  
 
Dr. Ballinger is identifying these students 'organically' by communicating with leaders around the state -- mayors of our towns and cities, directors of not-for-profit organizations, superintendents and principals of small school districts and schools, religious leaders, and service-oriented organizations (Rotary Clubs, etc.). The UW does not use an application process to select the Scholars -- in fact, future Presidential Scholars will have no clue that the university knows about them and their marvelous work and accomplishments in their communities. This recognition and scholarship will come to them as a total surprise and through a public recognition. The UW will tell their stories and emphasize the values they exemplify -- values that are of great importance to our society and to the University.
 
So far, Presidential Scholars have come from the cities of Bellevue, East Wenatchee, Ephrata, Fife, Goldendale, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Stevens, Mount Vernon, North Bend, Oak Harbor, Olympia, Redmond, Seattle, Selah, Spokane, Tacoma, Tukwila, Vancouver, Wapato, and Yakima.
 
Rotarians can find engaging information about the Presidential Scholars Initiative and some of its students using this link: https://www.washington.edu/boundless/presidential-scholars/.
 
Rotarians can continue to support this initiative and its students by doing two things: First, help identify such students. Second, spread the word. 
 
Dr. Ballinger again invites Rotarians to e-mail him, or to meet with me via Zoom or by phone to discuss the Presidential Scholars Initiative and students in our community. Let's identify, celebrate, and develop these astonishing community-focused young people in our midst.