Volunteers are often crucial to the success of any nonprofit organization. Thanks to their gift of time and talent, they keep the business of philanthropy moving.
At San Diego Foundation, one of our most important volunteer roles is that of scholarship application reviewer. Thanks to these volunteers, SDF was able to award a record-breaking $3.5 million in scholarships to nearly 1,000 local college students for the 2022 – 2023 academic year.
For Rebecca Bennion, her volunteer work with San Diego Foundation has been a perfect match for her skill set.
“My life experience was very ordinary,” she said. “I was a mother, a student, a grant writer and a devoted community volunteer. It was my unextraordinary background that made me the perfect scholarship volunteer. I could wholly relate to the students, their struggles, their goals and their dreams.”
‘Generosity, Kindness and Respect’
Rebecca started volunteering with SDF many years ago. There, she learned firsthand how those who represent SDF interact with others with “exquisite generosity, kindness and respect.” When she was invited to volunteer as a scholarship application reviewer, these previous interactions made it an easy “yes” for her.
“When I was invited to volunteer in the scholarship committee, I did not hesitate to accept,” she said.
As a volunteer, she annually reviews student applications for the Community Scholarships Program, which has awarded more than $46 million to more than 12,000 college students from San Diego since its start in 1997. The Community Scholarship Program is made possible through the generous donor support of 146 unique charitable funds and is the largest in the region outside of the university system.
Having reviewed hundreds of applications in her many years as a scholarship application reviewer, Rebecca does have some applications that stand out.
“I’ll never forget a certain student with a 4.3 GPA who worked nights at the local IHOP restaurant to help support his family and still found time to be a member of the student body leadership and volunteer substantially in the community,” Rebecca recalled. “He inspired me with his strength and commitment to his family, to academics and to the community. He received a scholarship from SDF that enabled him to attend a university despite his background… A SDF scholarship helped him launch into an adulthood filled with productivity and goodness.”
She knows she plays an important – if anonymous – role in the lives of local college students.
“Every year, I read the students’ scholarship essays and feel honored to be let into their lives,” she said. “I’m always touched by their frank admissions of homelessness, being raised in poverty, [or] being brought into the country by parents seeking refuge and citizenship.”
Hope for the Future
Rebecca hopes that more people will consider volunteering in this capacity, and she has some words of wisdom for them.
“If anyone is thinking of volunteering, I would say it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life,” she shared. “When you review the student applications, their lives will inspire you and fill you with hope for the future generation. The tradeoff is immeasurable.”
While serving as a volunteer is a time commitment, she knows the benefits to college students’ lives and our communities are immeasurable.
“You may devote a few hours of your time as a volunteer, but your efforts will set into motion a lifetime of benefit by supporting a young person launching into adulthood,” she advised. “I can’t think of a more important way to volunteer.”
Interested in a hands-on volunteer opportunity to read, evaluate and make scholarship decisions for our local San Diego County students? Then you may be a great fit as a scholarship application evaluator with the SDF Community Scholarship Program.
With nearly 140 scholarship funds, 3,000 applicants and more than 900 recipients annually, SDF relies on evaluators to make informed and thoughtful award decisions.
To learn more or to sign up to volunteer, visit the SDF website.