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Originally published Monday, November 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Large

Small gifts are a nudge to blossom

This week is reserved for good news. I suspect most of us need a little break from the accumulation of bad stuff.

Seattle Times staff columnist

This week is reserved for good news.

I suspect most of us need a little break from the accumulation of bad stuff.

So this week I'm thinking about that one guaranteed way to feel good: helping someone else.

A fellow parent reminded me of a good example of that. Sandi Everlove told me the 25th anniversary of the Mount Baker Community Club's MLK Jr. Scholarships is coming up in January.

These scholarships aren't earned by perfect grades or amazing deeds. They are a gift.

Twenty-five years ago a small group of friends in Seattle's Mount Baker community were talking about helping kids in the neighborhood.

Dick Monroe was there. "The original thought was that we should do something in connection with the newly formed MLK holiday."

They decided to encourage some African-American kids to go to college. They passed the hat around and collected enough money for three $250 college scholarships.

Of course, $250 won't make a dent in college costs. The real power of the gift was that it told kids their community believed in them.

Even today, unlike a lot of scholarships, this one still comes from donations from neighbors.

It has grown some, though. Last year, the fund raised $90,000.

The scholarship has increased its territory over the years to include all of Rainier Valley, and isn't limited to African-American students.

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It's still not aimed at the highest achievers, Monroe says, because they'll do fine.

It's aimed at kids who might not go to college without a nudge. "We look for kids with promise. ... They've overcome adversity and contributed to the community," Monroe said.

Jerry Morales, who replaced Monroe as chair of the scholarship committee three years ago, was one of those kids.

His story isn't dramatic, but it is common.

Morales said his family knew nothing about college. His father made it only to the sixth grade, and Morales didn't know what he would do after high school.

He was a senior in 1989 when "Mr. [Andy] Slatt at O'Dea came up to me and said I won an MLK Jr. Scholarship. I thought it was a scam. How could I win $1,000 that I never applied for?"

He enrolled at Western Washington University, got grants, a couple of other scholarships and worked.

The MLK money "didn't make a huge financial difference in the grand scheme of things, but it gave the Morales [family] this thing called hope," he wrote in a note to the committee this year.

Morales graduated from Western with a degree in English and works for an insurance company.

Everlove told me, "When the selection committee reads through applications, it isn't uncommon for many of us to weep and light a couple of candles in gratitude for what we have."

And Morales has discovered that being on the giving side can also be a gift.

"It's nice to know when you lay your head down at night that you are making a difference."

Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Large
I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
jlarge@seattletimes.com | 206-464-3346

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