The summer after Shawn Newton graduated from Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, a friend's mother asked what he planned to do with his life.
When he told her that he didn't know, she wondered what career he'd choose if he could go to college.
"I'd be an art teacher," he said.
And so the woman, whom Newton didn't name during an interview last week, paid for his tuition at National Park College in Hot Springs.
"She took me down there, signed me up and paid for two years" at the community college, he says. "I don't think I would have gone to school at all if it wasn't for that."
Newton eventually became an art teacher and spent seven years in the classroom, first at Centerpoint and later at Mountain Pine near Hot Springs.
In January 2012, the artist and pen enthusiast -- "I was that kid in school with a fanny pack full of pens and pencils" -- began making his own fountain pens to give away to friends and students. His pen passion grew into a business, Newton Pens, and turned into his full-time job.
Now, instead of giving pens to hard-working students, he's giving scholarships.
Since 2013, the nonprofit Newton Pens Scholarships has given $58,084 to students bound for college or trade school. It's a way for the 41-year-old Newton to express his gratitude to the woman who helped him start college.
"I could have paid her back later on, but that wouldn't have meant anything to her," he says. "I thought the best way to say thank you to her and pay it forward would be to start raising money and give scholarships to high school kids going to college."
Newton is helped by the fountain pen community and other friends who donate pens and pencils that he auctions on eBay to raise money for the scholarships, which usually range from $1,000 to $1,500. He also auctions small notebooks, some of which feature student artwork, and postcards to help fund the effort. Money left over is placed in an endowment that was started in 2018, he says.
The deadline for scholarship applications is April 2. Students must have at least a 2.5 grade-point average and submit a printed essay, which is judged by Newton; his wife, Elizabeth; and a few others. Visit newtonpens.com for complete application rules and information.
"I've heard from a couple of kids about how this has helped them," he says, adding that one scholarship recipient told him that she used the money to buy a used car that she drove to school.
"It might not be life-changing, but if this can help with books, or maybe get a laptop that they can use for school, that makes me happy," Newton says. "I'm so proud of the things we've done with this scholarship. I'm more proud of this than any fountain pen I've ever made."