Every year, partner universities in the Reisher Scholars Program (RSP) host new scholars for a formal celebration to welcome students into the program. Unlike many scholarships, these new scholars are not freshmen. Instead, the RSP rewards hardworking students midway through their journey by focusing on rising college sophomores and transfer students from community colleges — an often underserved student population in the financial aid landscape.
And of course, this year has not been like any other year.
So, what does an RSP induction ceremony look like during a global pandemic? At the University of Northern Colorado on Tuesday, September 15, campus coordinator Sherri Frye gave scholars the choice to participate from home via Zoom or join a socially-distanced, heavily-masked, gathering on campus. It was inherently challenging to ensure the technology worked and the safety protocols were enforced. However, there was a beautiful and unexpected silver lining to the festivities. Instead of the usual school administrators donning a Reisher medallion on the shoulders of scholars entering the program, each scholar was able to pick one person close to them who would ‘do the honors.’
Scholars chose people who helped get them to this point in their journey. People they felt safe being close to during this time. Partners and parents. Siblings and friends. Grandparents and kiddos.
While UNC hopes to be able to gather safely next fall without masks or county-dictated seating arrangements, they plan to carry this new tradition forward for all future celebrations. It was a warm reminder of how vital our bonds are to one another; that our success is tied to the people who support us. Even from a distance.
The mission of the Reisher Scholars Program, a scholarship fund administered by The Denver Foundation, is to provide post-secondary educational opportunities for Colorado students through scholarship grants at in-state schools. The objective is to enable promising students from Colorado, who do not have sufficient financial resources, to graduate from college in a timely manner with minimal additional educational debt. More than 1,600 Reisher Scholars have received over $25.8 million dollars in scholarship funding since 2001. Last year, 28% of Reisher Scholars were adult learners and 68% were the first in their families to attend college.
(Pictured in slideshow: Fazeel Bhatti, Fernando Gutierrez, Tatiana Dixon, Mason Williams. Photos provided by the University of Northern Colorado and Zoom screenshots provided by Jack Czarniecki.)