By Amy Sorter
Special to the TJP
When Dallas resident Seth Kaufman attended law school at Southern Methodist University, he found himself paying what he called “full freight” in year one. Then he learned about student scholarships offered through the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF), and applied.
Kaufman received an award from the Martin Samuelsohn Scholarship Fund, which specifically targeted Jewish students who enrolled in SMU’s law program.
“That scholarship was very helpful,” Kaufman said.
The Samuelsohn scholarship is only one of many being offered by the DJCF for the 2018-2019 school year. The 50 available scholarships are awarded based on everything from academic merit to financial need to community service. Financial awards also target former Camp Chai counselors, Jewish studies majors and yeshiva students.
And, in some cases, the student doesn’t have to be Jewish to be eligible for a scholarship.
“Our fund holders believe in helping the community at large,” said Mona Allen, the DJCF’s director of scholarships and programs. “Those who created funds or scholarships have different reasons for caring and wanting to make a difference.”
The DJCF offered its first scholarships in 1982, and each year offers more funds and awards. The average award is approximately $2,600, with scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. Allen said many of the phone calls the DJCF receives are from students, who are grateful that at least part of the financial burden of college is lifted from their shoulders.
“Students these days aren’t worried about exams or tests,” Allen said. “They’re worried about continuing their education.” Though needs-based loans and scholarships abound, “not every student is eligible for a student loan,” Allen commented. And even if a student can take out a loan, huge debt becomes a problem upon graduation, she added.
Scholarship awards are determined by a leadership committee and an objective decision-making process. Allen said that, by the time committee members receive submissions for review, the applications are scrubbed of all personal information including name, age and gender.
“The committee doesn’t know who the applicants are, other than what they bring to the table, such as grades, accomplishments and the content of their essays,” Allen said. As a result, some interesting stories come out of the process. Allen said the committee presented awards to a mother and daughter in the past. The committee didn’t even realize it until after the reception.
Essay content as well as accomplishments are important when it comes to who might receive an award and who might not. And, one important issue on which to focus is the award’s purpose.
“Don’t just say ‘I need the money,’” Allen said. “Elaborate. Let us know why. We want to help, but we need as many details as you can provide.”
The leadership committee consists of fund holders, donors, community members and former scholarship recipients, who take everything they receive from applicants very seriously. Kaufman, in fact, who received the Samuelsohn award, is on the leadership committee; he was inspired to do so through a relationship forged with the late Martin Samuelsohn, an SMU law school graduate and businessman.
“He never practiced law in a firm or at a company, but always said the education from the law school served him well,” said Kaufman, who is a tax attorney at AT&T. He went on to say that the relationship with Samuelsohn got him interested in working with the committee. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s one way I can give back to the organization that gave to me.”
The fund’s donors, along with the leadership committee, are dedicated to changing people’s lives, as well as serving an entire community, no matter the religion or age, Allen said.
“Education is so very important,” she added. “We’re blessed to have donors who care about the future from that standpoint.”
Scholarship applications are due by noon (CST), Jan. 5, 2018. For more information, go to www.djcf.org/collegescholarships or call 214-615-5268.