Palo Verde's scholarship winners set the bar high

We all know times are tough. We also know the economy is a long way from climbing out of the tank. And we know money is so scarce that in many households a good number of kids who will graduate from Southern Nevada high schools next spring may already have singular thoughts about their future, such as finding a job.

But there's more than just a ray of hope if you're a high school senior in Clark County who truly desires a college education and could use some financial help from the private sector in obtaining it. In fact, right now things couldn't look brighter.

There's scholarship money available, millions of dollars, some of which goes unclaimed each year due to the lack of applicants hopeful of going to college. However, the class of 2012 learned one of the secrets of how to obtain some of that financing. As Kim Boyle, director of guidance and counseling for the Clark County School District, put it, "apply, apply, apply."

For seniors with college in mind, that means submitting applications for those scholarships. And if you don't know what's available and where to find it, see your guidance counselors. That's their job.

If you're a member of the senior class at Palo Verde High School, 333 S. Pavilion Center Drive, you have a tall act to follow. That's because college-bound students who graduated from Palo Verde last spring received $16 million in scholarships, a record for the school and a significant increase from the preceding year's $12.6 million.

Palo Verde also topped the list of the 52 high schools in the school district for scholarship money awarded this year, nosing out second-place Coronado High School in Henderson, which totaled $15.9 million.

Moreover, when it comes to all-time records, the 2012 graduates from the district's high schools easily eclipsed the class of 2011 in total scholarship dollars.

The Clark County School District is the nation's fifth-largest district, and this year's graduates received just shy of $240 million in scholarships. That represented more than a 13 percent increase over last year's $213 million. It also reflected a substantial rise from the $188.7 million in scholarships issued just two years ago.

"Our guidance counselors have worked hard, encouraging students to apply for scholarships," Boyle said proudly. She repeated that much emphasis has been placed on three words ---- "apply, apply, apply. We encouraged students to apply, and we worked hard to help them," she said, adding that the result is in the numbers. "It's all worth the effort in the long run."

But the initiative to apply must start with the student and a willingness to fill out the necessary forms. The result could be highly rewarding, as Taikye Wright-Brown, a graduate of Cheyenne High School in North Las Vegas, can testify. Wright-Brown, now a freshman at Harvard University, received more than $60,000 in scholarships, making it possible for him to attend the Ivy League school.

Speaking at a recent program during which school district Superintendent Dwight D. Jones presented scholarships created to honor his father, Dewayne D. Jones, Wright-Brown said he chose Harvard because of the scholarship opportunities.

"If your family makes less than a certain amount, Harvard does not have an expected family contribution," he said. "I got the opportunity to apply, and I was accepted."

Dave Sheehan, a spokesman for the school district, pointed out that there exists vast amounts of scholarship money, not just from colleges and universities but from foundations and numerous public and private organizations. High school guidance counselors have access to this information; however, students must take the initiative to seek it.

"There are millions of dollars available in scholarships," he said, "but students have to take the time to look into what's there and apply for it. I understand there are great numbers of scholarships that often go unclaimed because students didn't act. That's a terrible waste. Kids just didn't apply for them."

While making scholarship information available to high school seniors is the role of guidance counselors, students still have to take enough interest in applying for those scholarships, Boyle emphasized.

"Our kids can obtain national scholarships based not just on their ability but also on need," she said.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at