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Education Leaders, Supporters Help Turn Dreams Into Degrees

May represents an exciting month for students across the country. Years of exams and coursework culminate in celebration, as millions of new high school and college graduates don their caps and gowns. It’s an inspiring moment—not only for students, but for the family, friends, faculty, staff and mentors who helped them achieve the diploma, certificate or degree they dreamed about.

That same energy was evident at Scholarship America’s own celebration, Dreams to Degrees. On Wednesday, May 25, a group of 300 education, corporate, policy and institutional leaders joined together at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. to recognize students, and to honor the organizations that make their postsecondary journey possible. The second annual Dreams to Degrees event shared the need for scholarships and other educational support, recognized organizations that have made significant impact in supporting students, and lauded the students who have made it through their education despite the odds.

“[The Dream Award] meant stability to help me reach my fullest potential,” said Charlene Hinton, a 2014 recipient and the night’s special speaker. The power of helping the nation, one student at a time, was apparent throughout the event, especially in a brief address from another special guest: Scholarship America’s 95-year-old founder, Dr. Irving Fradkin, whose passion for supporting young people hasn’t waned.

Emcee Hattie Kauffman guided the night’s festivities, and introduced three honorees at the event, all recognized for their outstanding commitment to postsecondary success.

The Osage Nation, headquartered in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, was honored for the Osage Nation Higher Education Scholarship—a generous and wide-ranging program available to tribal students. By distributing more than $8 million annually for all degree types, from vocational programs to doctoral degrees, the Nation seeks to help all of its students thrive in their communities, whether in Oklahoma or across the nation.

The Travelers Companies may be known for home and business insurance, but the company is also invested in developing the next generation of leaders. Travelers was honored for its EDGE (Empowering Dreams to Graduation and Employment) program, which supports underrepresented students as early as middle school, providing curricula, advising and mentorship through partner institutions. That guidance is coupled with emergency funding while students are in college, and it continues after graduation, to help students find success in the nation’s workforce.

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation created the Dell Scholars Program in 2004, and it has since helped more than 3,400 students overcome adversity and make it through to college graduation. The program was recognized for its financial generosity—each scholar receives a $20,000 award—as well as its support of holistic growth for students. More than just the scholarship, students receive assistance to help them through emotional, lifestyle and financial challenges that can happen during the year. The foundation continues to lead the way in scholarship best practices.

Hours before the dinner and program, scholarship recipients representing Scholarship America and honoree programs were treated to a special congressional day in D.C. The day included trips to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, hosted by Chairman John Kline’s office; the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee, including meetings with both majority and minority committee leaders; and a culminating visit to the White House, where students heard directly from officials representing the White House's Domestic Policy Council and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative.

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After a memorable day and night recognizing students and their supporters, Dreams to Degrees ended in even more celebration: the event raised nearly half a million dollars, including $80,000 for the Scholarship America Dream Award, to help future generations of students pursue their postsecondary dreams.

At Scholarship America, we believe that education changes lives, and you can help! Join Scholarship America in May 2017 for our third annual Dreams to Degrees event. Visit the Scholarship America website to learn more.

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