In 2012, Carmen Gil received a life-changing call. She was selected to receive a $25,000-per-year scholarship from the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, one of the largest scholarship programs in the country, which is funded by the General Motors Foundation.
As a first-generation college student working and attending classes full time, the award would allow Carmen to continue her STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, worry-free. "It's truly changed my life, both financially and personally," she said.
Filling a Scholarship Need
It was students like Carmen that prompted the GM Foundation to start the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program in 2011.
"From the Foundation’s perspective, it is our mission to offer significant and impactful programs in the education space," said Karen Nicklin, manager of Educational Initiatives for the GM Foundation. "We firmly believe in supporting the next generation from birth through college."
Although the GM Foundation was already invested in a number of educational initiatives, especially K-12 programming, creating a scholarship program focused on higher education would be a new endeavor.
Recognizing the need to run a robust program, the GM Foundation called upon Scholarship Management Services, a division of Scholarship America, for assistance. Managing more than 1,300 programs for corporations, individuals and foundations, Scholarship Management Services offered the expertise that the Foundation was looking for in administering an education assistance program.
Implementing the Program
© General Motors
The GM Foundation team wanted to reach a diverse range of students who wouldn't be able to attend college without financial assistance. The renewable awards would be available to community-minded high school seniors and undergraduate students at four-year colleges, with the majority of scholarships distributed to students majoring in STEM-related fields.
Special consideration would also be given to applicants who were identified as first-generation, female, minority, military veteran or dependent of military personnel.
After working with Scholarship Management Services to tailor the program to fit the Foundation's needs, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program was born. Both organizations publicized the new scholarship, with Scholarship Management Services handling day-to-day program operations.
"[Scholarship Management Services] offers us guidance and direct management, as well as review and award processes for applicants," Nicklin said. In addition, she cites the communication with students, schools and teachers as a valuable resource in having Scholarship Management Services administer the program.
Reaping the Rewards of a Strong Partnership
With the 2014 application cycle closed, the GM Foundation is gearing up to welcome another inspiring group of students as Buick Achievers. Scholarship Management Services will work with the Foundation to select recipients and disburse awards—all while preparing for another scholarship application year.
"The GM Foundation and Scholarship Management Services strive to improve the program each year," said Nicklin. "Scholarship Management Services is an extension of our team and we highly value our relationship."
Since its inception, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program has awarded more than $16.5 million in scholarships to approximately 3,300 students. Along the way, the GM Foundation has heard from grateful recipients who have been impacted by the program—like Carmen, whose educational future would never be the same.