Education has always been important to me. During my nearly three-decade career as a member of the Philadelphia Police Department, I was able to attend college, obtaining both an Associates Degree at the Community College of Philadelphia and a Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Joseph’s University.
That dedication to education extended to my career. I have always maintained and continue to feel that continuing and advanced education is important for police officers. My last decade as an active officer was spent as a teacher with the PPD’s Advanced Training Unit.
I have been honored to serve on the Scholarship Committee for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 for all three years since the program was first instituted. The four-person committee met earlier this week to select the seven scholarship winners for this year.
Each year, the FOP awards $10,000 spread across seven college scholarships, two in the amount of $2,500 and five in the amount of $1,000 each.
These scholarships go to high school students who will be entering college in the fall. The applicants all have FOP Lodge #5 relatives either active, retired, or deceased.
The quality of the applicants was strong in Year One back in 2016, and the selection process was difficult. The number of applicants has risen each year since, growing from about a dozen and a half in that first year to two dozen last year, and then this year with more than 40 applying. The quality of those applicants has not dropped off.
Needless to say, it was not an easy task to whittle down these tremendous students. But that is the job, and I take that job seriously. It is my opinion from sitting in on the selection meeting that the other members of the committee take it seriously as well.
When we go through the application packages, we have little clue as to the race, or the religious or ethnic background of those applicants. Our only hint as to sex is usually their first name. These things are never a consideration in the evaluation process.
The applicants were all asked to supply an application form with some basic information. They were also advised to include high school grade transcripts, extra-curricular activities (both school and other), college acceptance letters, and recommendations from teachers and other influencers.
They are also asked to write a brief essay describing themselves, what they hope to get out of their college experience, and how they hope to help their community in the future.
The vast majority of the applicants have great transcripts. They are mostly ‘A’ students with a history of academic success that has continued to the present.
That successful academic profile often becomes the first step in separating the applicants for me. The discipline that it takes for a young person to succeed in their school work when faced with so many distractions in today’s modern world is impressive when found.
Unfortunately, some applicants provide nothing more than the basic application. That is unfortunate, as an incomplete or “lesser” overall package is going to likely be a separator as well.
The best applicants for me, those who make it down to my final grouping, have it all: strong academic transcripts, community/activity involvement, adult recommendations, and an interesting essay.
Even then, I still went to the committee selection meeting having a dozen kids who I had difficulty separating from one another. I had gotten my personal selections down to a ‘top group’ of four, and then a secondary group made up of another eight students.
That is where the committee discussion process comes in to play. We all begin to compare our names and notes, and start to kick around some of the “positives” that we found raised some of those applicants above the others.
It is fairly amazing to me, at least over these first three years, how the committee members have frequently found many of the same names rising to the top of our individual lists. Getting to the seven overall scholarship winners is pretty much a process of finding those kids who stood out to all of us.
The discussion of which kids will receive the two higher valued $2,500 awards is usually a bit more detailed. We frequently will explore and discuss their essays and adult recommendations, looking for interesting experiences that touched us in some way.
In addition to seeing the quality of the kids, these first three years on the Scholarship Committee have been highlighted for me by the cooperation among the committee members. There have been no arguments or other controversies in our meetings or discussions.
Another important point: the FOP itself has no input whatsoever into who will receive a scholarship. No one from the FOP Lodge #5, not President John McNesby or any other officer, has ever approached me to make a “recommendation” or to try and influence the selection process in any way. It is my opinion, based on our meetings and discussions, that no one else on the committee has ever been so influenced.
I am not naming the 2018 scholarship award winners here at this time. That is not my place, as the FOP will make those announcements public at a time that they feel is most appropriate. The scholarship selectees will be honored as part of an FOP awards ceremony in late May.
Note that I called them “selectees” and not “winners” – that was intentional. It’s not that they aren’t winners, these kids most certainly can be described in that way. But the fact is that every single applicant is a winner as far as I am concerned. The same can be said for the parents who are raising these talented and impressive young people.
Applications for the 2019 FOP Lodge #5 scholarships are scheduled to open in September or October. Those applications will be accepted until a deadline, which usually comes the following February. Pay attention to the website, the Peace Officer magazine, and other notices.
Importantly, if your student intends to apply next year, please guide them through the process. Make sure that they turn in more than a simple application form, and that their package stands out.
Get those transcripts together, especially including their most recent grades. Get a few recommendations from teachers and adults running the businesses and programs they have been participating with as a volunteer or activity participant. Make sure they understand that their essay reflects their education, but also their passion and maturity.
Good luck to anyone who chooses to participate in the program into the future. This is a program that I believe is important, and one that I hope and believe will grow in both the amount and number of scholarships offered. Congratulations to those who will be honored next month, and who have been honored in the previous two years as well.