Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: This and that

Organizations are running out of people to keep them going

We belong to an organization that awards a scholarship to a graduating senior in the Kenai area. This includes anyone attending Kenai Central High School, the Alternative school or a home-school student in the attendance area.

The applicants this year were outstanding, as they are every year. Each one of them has received at least one other scholarship and maybe two or three.

Our award does not emphasize academic achievement, relying instead on community involvement, planning for the future, and recommendations. We take the planned career into consideration and sometimes, if all things are pretty equal, we look at the GPA, but more likely on what courses were taken during high school to earn the grades. This year’s applicants were 4.0 point students, or close.

The 2024 recipient got a C in chemistry in a schedule that included Advanced Algebra, AP Language Arts and Emergency Trauma Technician training among other difficult classes. Brought the GPA down a few hundredths of a point.

All of the applicants are aimed at an academic degree of some kind, although their eventual career choice may be “in the field” so to speak.

One applicant was planning a forest service career. The recipient is planning to be a nurse. Not one applicant was planning to be a mechanic, or a secretary. We advertised especially that the scholarship would pay housing, CDL license training, essentially, any non-traditional expense if the recipient was enrolled for post-secondary training of any type for the upcoming school year. No takers.

I know there are graduating seniors who don’t plan to go to college for lots of reasons, but hope to get some training somewhere to learn to weld, or fix the new cars, or offer enriched day care. Apparently they don’t apply for scholarships, probably also for lots of reasons, including they think no one would award one to a student who doesn’t have a 4.0 GPA or isn’t planning to go to Harvard.

And that is OUR fault. We forget we depend on plumbers, farmers, stay-at-home parents and janitors to maintain our day-to day lives much more than we need lawyers, financial experts or diplomats. I have never once called my senator when the furnace quit. I doubt that the talking head on TV bragging they went to Stanford could drive the truck that delivered whatever he’s drinking in that mug in front of him.

I hope that next year, all of our scholarship applicants plan to go to Seward for training in some trade I may need their help in, or the CDL driver’s training school here in Kenai so we can maintain a reasonable delivery schedule with some young drivers eager to be on the road. Or even some great skill academy in Denver to learn to build computers because that is their real talent, not some esoteric academic course in the philosophy of artificial intelligence.

Believe it or not, that was not going to be my soap box this column. I think I just confirmed even old ladies (maybe especially old ladies) go off on a tangent sometimes. What I really wanted to mention was something I have talked about before:

When I read the scholarship applications, I choose my favorite. This time, as I read them I said to myself, ”That’s the one”, and I was right. Which is the point. The same committee had been selecting the scholarship recipient for many years. We have a “type” so to speak, and that it can be predicted is unfortunate.

But, if not us, who? Organizations are running out of people to keep them going. Millennials laugh at the boomers and we few still active older guys, but we are the ones keeping things working. Organizations may be archaic but they serve a purpose, if only to award scholarships and maintain historic sites. When we are no longer causing you trouble, those things will be gone, and no one will know where they’ve gone or how to get them back.

Even the most ancient civilizations kept their histories. Those that didn’t, we barely even find their footprints preserved in the mud under the relics of the people whose history we are learning from at the moment.

I know two local organizations that have shut their doors in the past five or so years, and others that are operating only because we just can’t quite believe it’s time to quit yet.

Kudos to Lions, Elks, Historical Society, VFW and even the Friends of the Library and their active (if old) members.

Gen X needs to step in now, as they reach their golden years and assume some of the responsibility of maintaining these icons of making-things-work so their footprints don’t dissolve into the mud of Cook Inlet when a future archeologist is studying the by-laws of some dead organization and tries to find the definition of “scholarship.”

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