Bryant Chamber raises funds for city’s college-bound students

By Wayne Bryan Published March 31, 2014 at 8:21 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Rae Ann Fields, executive director of the Bryant Chamber of Commerce, looks through scholarship applications at the chamber office. The chamber is collecting money to give 25 $500 scholarships to Bryant High School seniors who will attend college this fall. This is the 14th year for the scholarship program.

BRYANT — For 14 years, the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce has offered scholarships to Bryant High School seniors to help with their first year of college.

In 2000, the chamber presented two scholarships, and this year the goal is 25 students.

“Last year we had a goal of 22, but some last-minute money gave us enough for an extra scholarship,”said Rae Ann Fields, executive director of the chamber. “The deadline for applications is April 15. If we do not have the funds committed by that time, we will simply give the number of scholarships we can fund.”

Fields said half of the $12,500 needed for the 25 $500 scholarships had been collected so far. She said members of the chamber and its education committee are hopeful the complete amount can be raised in time.

“We fully expect that if we reach out to people, we will meet the goal,” she said. “We just need to let people know we need their help to get the job done.”

The scholarships are open to Bryant High School seniors, but interested students must apply.

“There has to be a financial need, but there are no income requirements,” Fields said. “We just ask if the students are in financial need on the application, and we ask how many children in the family are already in college — things like that.”

Students’ records of community service and their plans of study are also major factors that are evaluated by the chamber members who select the 25 students.

“We give preference to students going to Arkansas schools, but over the years, we have given a couple of scholarships to students who will be studying out of state,” Fields said. “One was a seminary student going to school in Texas, and another was a student who had done a lot of volunteer work for the chamber over the years.”

In addition, the selection committee tries to connect certain donors to students who are going into a field related to the donor’s business.

“We have one scholarship that is usually provided by Saline Memorial Hospital, and we try to find a pre-med student,” Fields said. “That way the student and the donor have a connection.”

Fields said that for a contributor who gives enough for an entire scholarship, the certificate the student receives will name the donor. If it is only for part of a scholarship, the names of several donors who made the gift possible will be used.

Before the scholarships were started, the chamber used to recognize graduating seniors with special awards.

“Some were Best Community Service, Best School Spirit and other things like that,”

Fields said. “One year, I asked the education committee if this kind of recognition was what they wanted to continue doing. Several teachers on the committee spoke up, saying it would be best to give money to help students in their first year of college.”

The chamber executive said changes in the state lottery scholarships make the scholarships given to incoming freshmen ever more important.

“The lottery scholarship funds are decreasing, and they are being loaded heavier on the back end, with less money being given for the first year,” Fields said. “The chamber scholarships can help bridge that gap.”

To apply for a scholarship or to contribute to the scholarship fund, contact the Bryant Area Chamber of Commerce at (501) 847-4702.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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