We are passionate about the importance of character and about our scholarship.
Some of us joined the board of directors with an interest in expanding access to college. Others joined with an interest in recognizing character. All of us became captivated by the amazing stories of those who we award scholarships. These young men and women inspire us. They make us aware of what is possible. Take a look, you will be inspired too.
How the Scholarship Began
In the early 2000’s Mainely Character was conceived by Arnold Bushner, a local businessman, along with his business partner George Spino and several friends, including Annalee Rosenblatt and Judy Katzel. His daughter’s high school featured a character based curriculum and he appreciated its importance and effectiveness. It also inspired him personally to be a better father and member of his community. As his daughter contemplated a post secondary education, he noticed that there were no scholarships available based on a student’s character. There were scholarships for academics, sports, music, the arts and financial need, but none solely based on character. He, along with two friends, Annalee Rosenblat and Judy Katzel, decided to remedy that and first Mainely Character Scholarship was awarded in 2001.
Today we remain true to that vision. In choosing scholarship awardees we only consider elements of a student’s character: concern, courage, integrity and responsibility.
What We Believe
Of course, we believe in the importance of character; the need for character has never been more important.
We also believe in what we do, recognizing and rewarding those who demonstrate outstanding character. It is our hope that we will have more people living lives of character if we show that character is important.
Yes, success in academics, sports, arts or music should be cherished. However, awardees of Mainely Character scholarships are achieving more than just personal success, they are making their communities better.
How We Select Awardees
Each year we receive over 200 applications and each is evaluated thoroughly and systematically.
The core of the application is each student’s personal story about their experiences with the four elements of character. Every application is read by a member of the board of trustees and rated using a set of standard criteria. Those rated highest by an individual reader are then read and scored by every member of the board. Candidates who are scored highest in the scoring by all trustees are reviewed and discussed in a special meeting. Next, board members interview the references provided by highest ranked applicants to confirm the information in the application. After a full meeting of the trustees to discuss these interviews a group of semi-finalists are selected for an in-person interview with a panel of board members. These interviews are one of the highlights of our work. We always learn much more about the applicants than they have expressed in their applications. Afterwards panelists do the difficult work of achieving consensus; they recommend the final awardees to the full board for approval.
This process is time consuming for board members. It is also both exhilarating and disappointing. We are always incredibly proud of the students we award scholarships to but we also realize that there are other deserving students that we cannot recognize due to limited funds.
The number and amount of scholarships vary from year to year. Several sponsors have made multi-year commitments to sponsor scholarships in amounts from $2500 to $5000. In addition, donations by the public and the board funds additional scholarships in amounts from $1000 to $2500.
In 2018 Mainely Character awarded six scholarships, totaling $14,500. We could easily have awarded triple this amount and not granted scholarships to all the deserving students.
To fully recognize scholarship awardees and to emphasize the importance of the scholarship, a member of the board of trustees travels to the student’s school to make the award in person at an awards assembly or at graduation. The stories of our awardees are usually well known by other students and parents so the award becomes a community celebration of awardee’s character. We know that the message about the importance of character is nurtured by this effort. After we make an award at a school the number of applicants from that school increases in subsequent years.
In addtion to the award presentations we also prepare press releases on the awardees for local and regional news organization. We are always hopeful that the stories of our awardees are a prominent as they deserve to be.