We had the pleasure of awarding more than $319,000 in scholarships at our annual Scholarship Ice Cream Social on June 13.

Sponsored by Stewardship Capital, the event was an opportunity for the Community Foundation to personally recognize this year’s scholarship recipients for their outstanding achievements and to thank the donors who make these scholarships possible.

Our scholarship program is a community undertaking. This year, 111 dedicated scholarship committee members reviewed the 869 applications we received for the 130 scholarship funds held at the foundation. We are grateful for the hours they spent reviewing applications and thrilled to award 294 scholarships this year to 214 deserving students.

Throughout the last 37 years, many generous individuals have taken the steps to create scholarship funds with the Community Foundation. Donors like Gene and Joanne Cable. This year, the Cables awarded $16,000 in scholarships to eight students. Since establishing their scholarship in 2012, they have awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to students in Independence.

In total, Truman Heartland donors have awarded more than $4 million in scholarships since 1987.

And it’s not just our students who are benefiting from scholarships. When we invest in our students, we elevate the economic standing of families in our community. According to a 2018 report from the Brookings Institution, parents are increasingly shouldering the student loan burden. Brookings found that the balances owed by parents through the federal Parent PLUS loan program have more than tripled over the last 25 years.

In addition to financial support, we hear time and again that students greatly value the connection they build with their scholarship donor. Many of our scholarships are renewable, providing an opportunity for students to stay in touch with donors and for donors to provide continued support throughout their educational journey.

This mentorship offers a unique relationship. Students gain a greater sense of belonging and motivation to complete their degree and give back to the community that supported their education.

The annual Scholarship Ice Cream Social is one of my favorite events of the year. It is really inspiring to witness the gratitude from students and their families and the relationship between donors and students, some that are just starting and others that have grown stronger over the years. Everyone leaves this event feeling excited about the future.

Scholarships are an important asset to our community. And the need for scholarships in our area seems to grow each year. If you are interested in supporting the education of students in our region, we would be glad to work with you to create a scholarship fund that fits your values and has the potential to make an impact for generations to come.

Phil Hanson is the president and CEO of the Truman Heartland Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity committed to improving the communities in and around Eastern Jackson County through cooperation with community members and donors.