Journalism Next from Manatee High School: Happy meal or happy deal?

Special to the HeraldDecember 24, 2012 

To some kids, Ronald McDonald means just a smiling face and a kiddie toy. However, the clown's face is also the logo for the Ronald McDonald House Charity, a program directed toward families in financial need. The organization conducts a variety of charitable events to assist families by providing community service opportunities and awarding money and scholarships for those in need.

Each year, the Ronald McDonald House selects sophomores in the Tampa Bay area to receive mentoring throughout high school, and some receive a two-year college scholarship.

This year, MHS junior Stephanie Sarmiento won the scholarship. Sarmiento received the application through a friend, and although hesitant to apply, she did. Her friend had already applied for a scholarship, so she recommended Sarmiento give it a shot. Sarmiento applied, not expecting she would win.

"I was shocked when I found out I had won," Sarmiento said, "I remember thanking God and that I actually cried. It was a mixture of emotions and success."

To be considered for the scholarship, students must apply in October before their junior year, or they can apply just before their senior year. If a sophomore applied for one of the scholarships this past October, they will know whether they receive the scholarship by May.

The principal requirement for the application is an essay that reflects who the applicant is and their needs. The essay has no word requirement, but it cannot exceed two pages in length.

"I wasn't required to write about anything specific," Sarmiento said, "but my essay was a narrative. I wasn't trying to convince them to choose me, but just to know a little about me, what my plans for the future were, and how the scholarship would be beneficial to me."

Sarmiento said the application also puts heavy emphasis on community service hours obtained by the applicant.

Sarmiento had the support and guidance of Linda Norris, the college and career specialist at MHS. "I am thrilled for Stephanie," Norris said, "It is a real honor to be selected for this scholarship. I encourage qualified students to apply next year."

Sarmiento said she would recommend applying for this scholarship to anyone. Her advice to anyone applying for a scholarship is to focus their writing on themselves, what they are involved in, and why they are in need of money.

Norris said that as soon as information for the next scholarship is available, a list will be posted on the MHS website on the College and Career Center page. Interested students should read the application instructions carefully and spend time on the essay question.

"Don't rush through it," Norris said, "It is helpful to have someone else, such as your English teacher, read through your essay to check for any misspellings or typos, and make suggestions for improvements."

According to Sarmiento, this scholarship will bring her one step closer to becoming the person she wants to be. She also said it will help her pursue a career in criminal justice or psychology at the college of her choice.

"Not only that," Sarmiento said, "but the scholarship will help me become someone for my siblings to look up to."

Scholarships are incredibly helpful to students, whether awarded for academics, athletics, music, or excellence. Students can go to the College and Career Center to look for available scholarships. Sarmiento is an example of "it never hurts to apply."

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