From L to R: Heather Nelson; Katie McGehee, Endowed Scholar; Elizabeth

From L to R: Heather Nelson; Katie McGehee, Endowed Scholar; Elizabeth Yates, Endowed Scholar and Robin January, Scholarship Coordinator for the AAA.

Several years ago, I found myself searching for something that engaged my heart back to my alma mater. I found that something, in spades, in the scholarship program at the Arkansas Alumni Association. They say you cannot lead a group in something for which your heart is not behind; the Arkansas Alumni Association does not have that problem. Robin January’s heart is “all in” when it comes to not only the program she spearheads, but the students whose lives she impacts year after year. That devotion, that heart, is what sets the association’s Scholarship Program apart from any other I have seen or been a part of…Robin January IS the difference.

Every February, for two days, a group of volunteers, all ages, majors and professions come from all over the U.S. to the Janelle Y. Hembree Alumni House to review scholarship applications. Some who come and volunteer are not alumni; however, they come because they love the U of A. They come because they love the students. Some participate because they have heard how good the program along with the two day selection process is, and they want to see, if not experience, it for themselves. This group of strangers, except for the “devotees” that come every year, review hundreds upon hundreds of scholarship applications…in two days. Why? Because it matters.  It really matters.

The AAA Scholarship Program, from the tiny details, to the review weekend, to the scholarship award luncheon, all represent a glimpse into the nucleus of the very best of the YOU of A. It is competitive, smart, funny, tear-jerking, mentally stimulating and hopeful. As an alumna, it renews your pride in the University you attended, makes you slightly question if you could even get into the U of A today, while also giving you great hope for those that are coming up after us. The best is yet to come…nowhere is that more clear than in the words and hearts of the newest freshman class each and every year. Truly.

So imagine the awestruck “Wow!” moment when the program reached the $1 Million mark a few weeks ago. One million dollars in scholarship awards in one year. I mean, WOW! My first thoughts were how many more students can we reach now? How many more Sarah’s, Nate’s, Elisabeth’s, Katie’s, etc. can we pluck out of small towns in Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas or Anywhere, USA and bring to the University of Arkansas campus? With the gift of a simple scholarship we can open a world they did not know existed, and ignite a passion in them for words, art, poultry, politics, medicine, theology, etc., that they never imagined. How many more?

A pebble being skimmed across the water creates a beautiful ripple.

And just like that, the Arkansas Alumni Association Scholarship Program changes the world…again. One scholarship…one student…at a time. There is a beautiful quote by Jim Rohn, “It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.” There is change, storms and uncertainty every day in this world. Our sails, this program…the students it serves, sets our course at the Alumni Association. It gives us purpose and meaning no matter the direction or force of the wind. Each of us as alumni and friends of the YOU of A hold in our hands a million pebbles. I hope you see the magic and potential of every single one. I hope you will join us as we work to gather a million more so that we can continue to change the world…one ripple at a time.