I read a letter aloud to several staff members last week. After I finished, Program Director Thurman Young summed up the story as one of redemption, practically writing the blogpost for me.
In 1990, Scholarship Foundation application readers rejected an application from a young woman with twin toddlers. In her record was a period of incarceration (during which she had completed her associate’s degree), and they were unwilling to approve an interest-free loan to her until I called her and asked what the charges were.
They insisted, and I refused to make that call. She had served her time and had submitted a glowing recommendation from an employer. Then a young and new executive director, I approved her application and hoped she would persist in her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
Not only did she graduate on time, but she began repaying.
Not only did she repay in full, but she began making an annual contribution.
Not only did she make annual contributions, but this year (27 years after applying), she enclosed a letter with her contribution check.
She wrote about having been laid off several years ago, commenting that her unemployment lasted long enough to take advantage of the benefits before she was employed again (and ever since). Throughout the letter, she wrote of all the goodness that life has brought her, most of all her family:
“…Both of my daughters are attending college. The youngest has gotten two masters’ degrees and is now in a doctoral program. The oldest (my namesake) is a secondary educator, but is now in pursuit of a masters’ to become a principal. Very proud of them both.“
“I have two grandsons, one who is nine years old and the other four going on 24! They are my joy these days. I took them both to Disneyland; we spent a week in Los Angeles, along with my twin daughters and my mother.”
Redemption stories fill the files of The Scholarship Foundation, but few come as full circle as this one. From prison to a pile of rejected applications to an interest-free loan to a degree to a donor, this woman’s journey is one of paying back and paying forward. She sums it up sweetly when she writes:
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be a recipient of the scholarship program. Please find enclosed my $150 as a supporter. It’s truly a pleasure to be able to give back and to such a worthy cause; your staff does an excellent job at keeping some young dreamers’ vision alive that a higher education is within reach.”
Maybe mistakes are opportunities. Maybe an interest-free loan is an instrument of redemption. Maybe saying “yes” to a dream is a statement of faith.
– Faith Sandler