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Funding the future

Local students gain experience, earn scholarships

Created date

August 25th, 2017
Student server reviews menu with a resident in a dining facility.

To date, student employees have received more than $2.5 million in scholarships.

Working as a server in Riderwood’s on-site restaurants is an ideal job for local high school students. The part-time jobs provide teenagers with a way to earn money while still keeping up with their studies, and they have the unique opportunity to form friendships with the retirees who live at Riderwood.

One of the most exciting perks of the job is the potential to earn a scholarship for higher education through the Riderwood Scholars' Fund, which is funded by donations from residents. 

The gift of education

To date, student employees have received more than $2.5 million in scholarships to attend universities and accredited trade and vocational schools. A few years ago, the scholarship program was expanded to include adult staff members hoping to continue their education. 

To be eligible for the scholarships, employees need to have worked at least 1,000 hours at Riderwood, receive a resident recommendation, and submit an application and personal essay. 

Four-year scholarships up to $8,000 and renewable one-year scholarships up to $1,000 per semester are available. 

In 2017, almost 60% of Riderwood community members donated to the Scholars' Fund. They contributed $202,000. Fifteen graduating seniors received four-year scholarships this year, while 52 employees received the one-year scholarship. 

Nancy Blount, philanthropy coordinator at Riderwood, says recipients of Riderwood scholarships have gone on to attend many prestigious institutions, including Harvard, University of Maryland, University of Maryland University College, Montgomery College, Prince George’s Community College, Bowie State University, Catholic University of America, Towson University, and Howard University.

“Our residents have been very successful in life, often due to their education,” says Blount. “It is so wonderful that our donors are willing to pay the gift of education forward to the next generation.”

Intergenerational bonds

For the last ten years, resident Judy Kneen has been a member of the scholarship committee, the group that reviews applications and selects scholarship recipients. Before she retired, Judy worked in education for 30 years and was a professor at Montgomery College, so she’s well suited to serve on the committee. It also allows her to remain connected to her profession. 

“I think it’s a great program,” Judy says. 

It’s common for community members and student staff members to form close bonds because they see one another night after night in the on-site restaurants. That daily exposure gives the students the chance to learn from the older generation and provides residents with rewarding opportunities to share their wisdom.

“The youngsters will ask for advice,” Judy says. “A lot of them come from families where people haven’t gone to college, so it’s helpful.”

In the personal essays they submit with their applications, the staff members explain their professional goals and how they hope to use their education. Judy says applicants are also asked to write about what they’ve learned by working at Riderwood.

“It’s very interesting,” Judy says. “A lot of them say they have learned a lot about and from working with seniors.”