“My Volunteer Experience is Equal Parts Inspiring and Gut Wrenching.”

Meet Mohammad: Gap Scholarship Committee, Board observer, math tutor and volunteer extraordinaire. 

My experience as an SEA volunteer has been equal parts inspiring and gut-wrenching. Last August, I joined another volunteer and full-time SEA staff member on a bright Saturday morning to interview students for the Gap Scholarships. From chipping in with tuition, childcare, transportation and securing housing, the Gap Scholarship is a flexible fund that provides financial support to students when they need it most.

Since the scholarship fund is limited, we interview new applicants to determine which students have the highest need and urgency. Over the course of 8 hours, we conducted a total of 13 interviews with students. In each student interview, we posed the same question set: “What are your higher education goals? Where are your underlying passions and interests derived from? What obstacles currently stand in the way of achieving said goals? How will the Gap Scholarship help you overcome said obstacles and, ultimately, achieve what you’ve set out to accomplish?”

Although the outputs (higher education goals) varied widely among the students, the inputs (the genesis of each student’s interests/passions) converged by-and-large to the same point. SEA students are self-aware, driven individuals who are out to actualize dreams that were deferred as a result of unforeseen life circumstances. In my interactions with SEA students that day, I was reminded of the following adage about character, “Character isn’t determined by what befalls you, but rather by how you respond to those unexpected challenges.”

After completing the interviews, we took a moment to review our notes on students’ interviews and application packages. During the subsequent deliberation on scholarship funding allocation, I felt a deep sadness upon realizing that we would not be able to meet the full monetary need of each applicant–let alone half of the monetary needs of all the Gap scholarship applicants. This wave of sadness was compounded when I thought of the asymmetry between the rather inconsequential scholarship award amount each student was requesting and the sizable benefit of that funding to each student.

Scholarship funding has a significant and immediate impact on student trajectories, since students request funding at crucial points in their educational journeys. Many applicants need a Gap Scholarship to cover their rent, help with childcare, tuition, certification fees, and so much more. Student requests last quarter totaled $64,308, while SEA only had $40,000 to allocate. This is a huge discrepancy ($24,308 deficit > 50% of quarterly fund)!

So, when you consider donating to SEA, think of the 10x, 20x, 30x, impact in students’ lives, both in the short and long term. Your generosity is inextricably linked to SEA’s ability to consistently provide support to students.

Donating to SEA gives you, the donor, a proverbial seat at the table during deliberations on scholarship allocation and creates an uptick in the total Gap Scholarship pool. Providing timely monetary support via the Gap Scholarship enables SEA students to continue their educational journeys, achieving their higher education goals and creating economic opportunity for both themselves and their loved ones.

For many, the Gap Scholarship is the difference between a student staying enrolled in school and dropping out. It’s time! With another round of scholarships right around the corner, join me in making a tax-deductible gift today and help us support over 800 young people across King County on their way to college degrees.




Mohammad Jama

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