Foundations don’t seek recognition for the work they do. They are uncomfortable in the spotlight, preferring instead to shine it upon their hard-working nonprofit partners.
But sometimes an event designed to show gratitude to a funder can become much more that. Here at the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we had a chance to experience this firsthand during the recent Johnson Scholarship Day celebration at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Johnson Scholarship Day gave JSF staff a chance to meet more than 100 students who are recipients of PBA’s Johnson Scholarships. In total there are more than 800 academically talented and service-oriented Johnson Scholars at PBA, a Christian university of about 3,850 students in West Palm Beach, Florida.
This was the second year the university has hosted Johnson Scholarship Day. It was special to JSF for several reasons, but three in particular stood out to us.
First, it was a chance for JSF to get to know the students. During PBA’s Johnson Scholarship Day, we had a chance to enjoy refreshments and sit down with college students, a famously busy lot. They told us about their hometowns and their future plans. They also shared what the scholarship means to them.
Many of them spoke about financial need and how the scholarship helped fill in the gaps in their financial aid. Some said the scholarship gave them encouragement to stay focused on their studies. As Johnson Scholar Primose Lataillade told us, “It teaches us that people believe in us.”
Second, it was a chance for the students to get to know JSF. Our founders, the late Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson, came to know PBA through their personal friendship with PBA Founding Board Chairman Dr. Donald Warren.
PBA President William M. B. Fleming Jr. described Mr. Johnson as a remarkable man who loved PBA students. Because of Mr. Johnson’s admiration for the university, PBA has been a grant recipient – one of the Foundation’s largest – since JSF’s inception in 1991.
JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod gave the students additional insight into Mr. Johnson, who shared Dr. Warren’s belief that a school like PBA had the potential to slow what many perceived at the time as a moral decline in America. “He felt that this was a great investment in society,” he said.
Third, it was a chance for JSF to see the return on not just one but two of its investments. During the event, we learned that at least one of the students in the room was well acquainted with JSF long before she ever set foot on PBA’s campus.
As a student at Palm Beach Gardens Community High School, this student spent all four years in the Johnson Scholars program, a college readiness program that is a partnership among JSF, the School District of Palm Beach County and Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County. Students who complete the program receive a college scholarship. For this young woman, that scholarship enabled her to continue her studies at PBA.
To us, stories like hers and the others we heard are what Johnson Scholarship Day was really about. We are proud of all of our Johnson Scholars at PBA, as well as those at other colleges, universities and schools throughout Florida, the United States and Canada.