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LANL Foundation scholarships a vital link

_copyright”>By JOHN MCDERMON

For 20 years, employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory have taken the lead to fund scholarships for students in surrounding communities.

In 1998, a few staff members started the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) and, since then, thousands of LANL employees, contractors and retirees have contributed $5 million to build the largest scholarship pool in Northern New Mexico. Additionally, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), the contractor that runs the lab, has contributed $3.2 million to support the education and career dreams of students.

To date, more than 1,400 students from Rio Arriba, Mora, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos and Los Alamos counties have been awarded $6.8 million in scholarships.

During the recent internal fundraising campaign, over 800 LANL employees pledged more than $400,000 for scholarships. LANL Foundation, which manages the program, sincerely thanks these donors for their generosity and for recognizing the value of higher learning.

In 2018, 142 students will receive $712,950 in LAESF scholarships. Undergraduate awards have already been given to 107 students. Some awards are designated for Native Americans. Nontraditional students will receive scholarships to pursue new opportunities with a two-year degree or certificate. In 2019, a new trade school scholarship will encourage training in hands-on fields that are critical to supporting local needs.

Scholarship applicants need not have laboratory affiliation nor pursue STEM degrees. Many recipients are offered internships at LANL and some pursue employment there after graduation.

Our students meet tough academic requirements and have worked hard to make the most of education and leadership opportunities, often overcoming significant adversity and economic disadvantage. They are your neighbors in rural areas. Many are first-generation college students. They excel in education while holding down jobs to support themselves and their families. They have inspiring stories to tell and bright futures ahead. They also need your help.

Chances are, you know a scholar who benefited from the generosity of others. You probably also know someone who has the motivation to pursue higher education or professional development, but will struggle to pay for it and may even give up that dream. Each year, two thirds of students who apply will not receive one of our awards due to funding limitations.

You do the math. While the numbers are impressive, donations made by LANL employees alone are not sufficient to fund the growth of this scholarship program and meet increasing need in our region. More can be done to share the responsibility of supporting students.

Community members and businesses, please consider a donation to scholarships. Numerous nonprofits, colleges and universities have established avenues for giving that may align with your values. You can choose to support students who are of specific demographics, have high financial need or are pursuing certain areas of study.

Our students are our future. Scholarships change lives by breaking down financial barriers to higher education and help turn promising potential into meaningful careers.

McDermon is the LANL Foundation scholarship program manager.

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