College scholarship applicants show the glass is “half full” with our millennials

Sather Gate at UC Berkeley (Photo: Cal Alumni Association)

Along with others, I just finished reading and scoring 12 undergraduate scholarship applications for incoming UC Berkeley students. It’s known as the Leadership Award merit scholarship of the Cal Alumni Association, a prestigious award that has been offered since the 1930s.

This year was another impressive group of applicants: academic “high achievers,” but also students who demonstrated leadership and compassion. Some had launched interesting new programs in their schools, showing ingenuity (and in some cases real courage), while others had led established groups.

This was not a self-centered group. Topics I read centered on tolerance (political, social, gender and religious); academic passions in science and technology, and the arts; imaginative community service projects; and challenges that were overcome (from breaking through language barriers — sometimes even in their own families — to “helping others.”) The examples the students cited were real and the progress was measurable.

These students — incoming freshman and some transfer students — also showed a top-of-mind awareness for the “news,” including our nation’s political divisiveness, economic problems, school shootings, scientific breakthroughs and environmental challenges. The nuances of these issues were captured in their writings too.

The “iGeneration” gets some bad press; sometimes it is self-inflicted, as it is for all of our generations. But digging deeper, I’ve found this group is determined to “make the world a better place.” We need that attitude.

Here’s the background for this merit-based scholarship: “Established in 1934, The Leadership Award is a one-year, scholarship that recognizes undergraduate students at UC Berkeley who demonstrate innovative, initiative-driven leadership impacting their academic, work, or community environments. Students compete for the scholarship every year, ensuring a diverse and dynamic annual cohort of leaders whose work is relevant and newly inspiring.”

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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