College scholarship season inspires me. The excitement of students beginning a new chapter in their lives takes me back to a time in my own life when the world seemed to be opening doors to undiscovered and limitless opportunities.
It’s gratifying to help exceptional young people take the next steps in realizing their dreams. This year, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry expects to award more than $700,000 in scholarships to local students, through the 47 scholarships we manage.
The scholarship program also gives us the unique opportunity to meet some of the area’s most promising students. Hayden Bird is one of them.
Hayden received our Amazing Grace Sulak Scholarship, the James L. Krum Memorial Scholarship and the Joan and Wade Webster Scholarship, which will lighten the financial burden for this budding aerospace engineer when he enrolls at Georgia Institute of Technology this fall.
Since 2016, it has been Hayden’s dream to attend Georgia Tech. That’s when he first saw the school, as his family drove past it while evacuated to Atlanta during Hurricane Matthew. When he got a chance to actually tour the campus three years later, he says, “I felt like I was amongst my people. I was geeking out the entire trip.”
Hayden says he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t “geeking out” about outer space, and he knew at an early age he wanted to study it. His family’s trip to Epcot Center to watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch affirmed his career choice.
He wonders if advanced life exists beyond earth and wants to be part of a team that finds out. After he graduates with an undergraduate degree (and, most likely, a graduate degree), his goal is to work at NASA or SpaceX.
And he knows what he wants to tackle first: communication delays resulting from the vast distances in space. He’s already extensively researched the topic – which was the subject of a high school term paper – and he’s formulated what he thinks might be a solution.
Tuition costs for his freshman year will total close to $50,000, so any financial support he receives makes a tremendous difference. “This year has been a tough one for my family,” he says, “and receiving the scholarships really means a lot.”
Of course, the Community Foundation would be unable to offer scholarships without the donors and fund advisors who understand the infinite value of education, and who have the faith and foresight to invest in local students. Their thoughtful generosity will pay dividends well into the future, not only for the students themselves, but for our entire region. This is the legacy they share.
We never know the influence we might have on the future, and our scholarship program advances this unchartered human potential. So as Hayden looks to the stars, we’re wishing him – and all of our scholarship recipients – bright and successful futures.
Scott Wierman is the president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.