Graduations and senior awards ceremonies are in full swing in the month of May. Our staff and board members at East Texas Communities Foundation are busy attending awards programs throughout East Texas to honor this year’s graduating seniors.

When the dust settles, ETCF will be awarding over $753,000 this year to 237 students from 87 different scholarship funds. This is an amazing testament to the value East Texans place on education.

In addition to the scholarships entrusted to ETCF, local clubs, businesses, families, and foundations in every school district make investments each year to support thousands of scholarships for local students. It is clear that people see the value of voluntarily investing in the academic success of our local students.

Scholarship funds at ETCF are established for a wide variety of reasons. Some scholarships are created to encourage students to pursue a specific career or discipline such as geology, medicine, ministry, or automotive technology.

Other scholarships are established to invest in students from a donor’s hometown or a community where they spent their career or raised a family. Still, other scholarships are established to memorialize a loved one for a life well-lived, such as a beloved educator or family member.

Quite often scholarships are established to remember a classmate or family member whose life was cut tragically short. At local senior awards ceremonies the heartfelt emotion expressed when such memorial scholarships are presented serves as a reminder for students and others in attendance, that life is precious and we must all use our time wisely.

Though scholarships are top of mind this time of year, charitable giving to support education extends well beyond individual scholarships. If you are charitably minded and you value education, there are numerous opportunities for you to invest in organizations and programs that teach valuable skills to traditional and non-traditional students.

Public school foundations are growing in popularity around East Texas and provide great options for supporting local public schools. These foundations usually focus on raising funds to support college scholarships or grants for teacher-initiated projects at the school.

Teacher grants are used to support great ideas from teachers to enhance the learning experience for their students with equipment or materials that are not available with normal classroom funds.

Scholarships are distributed to deserving students as a way to reward their achievements and support their aspirations to continue their education beyond high school.

Colleges, universities, and private K-12 schools must continually raise support to fulfill their mission. Funds raised at these institutions are used for capital projects, student scholarships, and faculty or academic program support.

These institutions raise funds to provide annual support for these initiatives as well as build endowments to provide a reliable stream of future funding. Even though some of these institutions receive public support, philanthropy still plays a vital role to support both the students and the schools.

There are also very important organizations in our community that support students who find themselves out of sync with traditional educational opportunities.

The Literacy Council of Tyler is an organization that reignites the desire of adult learners to learn English as a second language and complete a high school equivalency credential, which includes preparing for and passing the General Educational Development or GED test. It is not easy for adults to find their way back to their educational path if it was disrupted by family, career or other circumstances.

The Literacy Council of Tyler is a charity that helps these individuals reach important educational milestones, and often ignites an internal desire to complete even higher educational achievements such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

The Christian Women’s Job Corps is another example of a charity that provides vital education for women in our community. CWJC builds the faith, self-confidence, and resilience of local women while teaching practical computer skills that are transferrable to many careers. Both LCOT and CWJC serve as vital community resources to support adults who may think their educational goals are out of reach.

As you review the graduation announcements and invitations that are steadily arriving in your mailbox this spring, give some thought to how you can support these local educational institutions.

Aside from financial support, these organizations rely on volunteers, mentors, and student referrals to maximize the impact of their programs. Perhaps setting up a scholarship fund to honor a loved one, or making a gift to support another local educational organization is your next best opportunity to Give Well.