Each year, The San Diego Foundation Community Scholarships Program awards more than $2 million to students for the upcoming academic year. With more than 10,000 applications submitted each cycle, our program relies on a corps of 50 volunteers to help review all applications.

We recently caught up with Sonya Parker, a long-time volunteer with the program and first-year member of the Community Scholarships Program Committee, which provides guidance and support to program staff.

Sonya is a San Diego native and an alumna of The Academy of Our Lady of Peace and San Diego State University. She has three adult children and one granddaughter. A local business owner, Sonya has a personal services company and an event production company based in San Diego.

We asked Sonya to share a little bit about her experience as a scholarship evaluator.

Interview with Sonya Parker

The San Diego Foundation: How did you first get involved with the scholarship program?
Sonya Parker: I was recruited by Darcy Bingham, a current board member of The Foundation and former Community Scholarships Program Committee member, to open envelopes about seven years ago. I have continued to become more involved each year since.

TSDF: Can you tell us how the program has changed since you first began volunteering?
SP: When I started, we were still receiving paper applications from each student for multiple scholarships. We have continually streamlined the process and finally went digital!

With SmarterSelect, our online scholarship platform for our Common Scholarship Application, the process now is so much easier for evaluators and applicants alike.

TSDF: What is your favorite part of the scholarship evaluation and awards process?
SP: My favorite part has always been the interview process, where we get to meet some of these amazing students and hear about their educational and life goals. This is always very moving and inspiring.

TSDF: Do you have tips for new volunteers evaluating applications for the first time?
SP: Don’t take on too many scholarships your first year. Get a feel for the process before diving in head-first. Take your time and really read each applicant’s statements and activities to get a good sense of where they fall in their respective scholarship pools.

TSDF: Thank you so much for your time and your incredible commitment to the Community Scholarship Program!

Learn More about the Community Scholarships Program