Support for students supports the future

To this point, 2020 has been anything but normal. Pandemic, recession and civil unrest have challenged the country. The United States has endured each of these throughout history, but never all at the same time. Has history taught us any lessons to work through these issues? And what will we take from these challenges to address the future?

While I’m not a big social media user, I did see a recent string of posts relating 2020 to the movie Jumanji. A meme began circulating on social media that suggested we need to yell “Jumanji” and get back to a better place, a better time. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. It will take everyone’s best efforts to overcome our current challenges and shape the future we want to see.

Despite the unrest in the world right now, there are paths toward that better place. Since 1958, the MFA Foundation has provided annual scholarship opportunities for high school seniors throughout our trade area. Each year, about 325 students receive $2,000 toward their first year of post-secondary educa­tion. You can see the 2020 recipi­ents on page 32.

MFA Foundation funds are man­aged by representatives from MFA Incorporated, MFA Oil Company and our local affiliates. Scholarships are awarded through retail facilities for these organizations as well as AGRIServices of Brunswick and Central Missouri AGRIService.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “For the best return on your money, pour your purse into your head.” That’s precisely the focus of this foundation. It’s a forward-looking investment. These students are our future leaders.

The MFA Foundation’s board of directors continually evaluates ways to ensure this scholarship is recognized as one of the best offered in our trade area. There is no better way to do this than to listen to our employees and customers. Based on these groups’ input, the board is making a few important changes to the program for 2021.

First, applicants must be a child, grandchild, stepchild or step-grand­child of a member and live within the trade area. Membership (or member level volume) in one of the sponsoring organizations will be required. This stipulation matches many other agriculture scholarship programs. Facility or location man­agers will administer the program. It will no longer be tied to a specific school.

Second, applications for 2021 scholarships must be completed online. The foundation performed a pilot of the online application process this year; we are ready to go all-in. It’s safe to say that if there are struggles with this process, it will not be on the student end.

Winners will continue to be se­lected based on their interest in:

  • Furthering education.
  • Participation and leadership in school, community and church activities.
  • Financial need and willingness to work to supplement educa­tional costs.
  • Satisfactory academic progress.

The choice of study does not im­pact the decision as long as the path leads to an academic degree such as bachelor of arts, bachelor of science or associate’s degree.

I have the opportunity to speak with numerous high school and col­lege students during the year. One point I try to make in each conver­sation is this: There is no correlation between the school you attend, the degree you obtain and the success you achieve. Educational institu­tions and degrees only provide opportunities. The rest is up to you. Financial support for that opportu­nity is what the MFA Foundation provides.

For many students, scholarships play a vital role in the decision to pursue a degree. Scholarships help offset the rising cost of college ed­ucation—an education needed for our youth to enter the competitive job market. Estimates suggest that six in 10 jobs today require some form of higher education.

The overarching goal of these scholarships is to help make a difference for upcoming gen­erations. I’ve been around long enough to know you don’t learn everything at school. One of my previous supervisors liked to ask, “Where did you go to school?” with a snappy follow-up, “And where did you get your education?” That always reminded me of a quote by Mark Twain, “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” I be­lieve scholarships are a big help in getting the process started. Teach­ing a student to learn is the first step in a lifetime of education and the ability to face the challenges of tomorrow.

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