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October 2, 2013

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October 2, 2013

I interviewed and evaluated candidates for the Scholarship Foindation for more than five years before, due to a health crisis in my family, my own son applied searching for funding. His experience completely altered my view of the Foundation, although I lay most of the blame to personnel, rather than policy.

The first year, he was disqualified because only one, not the required two, recommendations from teachers and employers (or supervisors of volunteer work) were submitted on his behalf. This is a rather rigid requirement, over which the student does not have complete control, and adds to the burden placed on teachers, who are inundated with requests from the same students for college recs--which can't even be recycled because the Scholarship Foundation has its own forms.

The second year he was told, repeatedly by several layers of staff, including Vicki Wedmore, who oversees the volunteers who conduct interviews, that unless he traveled from Beijing, where he was on a year-long academic program, for an in-person interview in Santa Barbara, his application would again be disqualified. Ms Wedmore repeated this same "policy" to me when I called to follow up on the problem, so I wrote to Colette Hadley, the director, who overrode Wedmore and personally conducted an interview by Skype with him in Beijing.

He was awarded a small ($1,200/ yr) endowed scholarship, not any of the monies set aside for students whose lives have been impacted by cancer (my husband had been undergoing chemotherapy for two years, battling an in curable lymphoma). The interest-free loan programs administered by the Scholarship Foundation with funds from the Santa Barbara Foundation had also been severely curtailed, and he received no loans either. So the Scholarship Foundation award would have had a negligible impact on his ability to attend college, even if it had been fully dispersed.

But we learned at the end of my son's freshman year at the Univeristy of Oregon, where he is in the honors program and the federal flagship program in Chinese and made the dean's list, that only the first quarter's payment was received, $400, without any explanation to the student, the financial aid office at the school, or the parents. My son was informed by Vicki Wedmore that a letter had been sent to our home (where he clearly was not living while attending college) requesting his schedule of classes for the second quarter, not a published requirement of the grant. When he failed to comply, because he did not receive the request, the money was not sent. Period. No second request, use of email for communication, notification of any party: just canceled the award. He reported that Wedmore was hostile to him when he reached her by phone, as she was to me when I followed up, insisting that he had violated the terms of the grant by failing to provide this information and that was that, no review was possible, grant could not be reinstated. But this time when I wrote to Colette Hadley requesting copies of the rule that he had supposedly violated and the Foundation's communications with him regarding this matter, she only responded with one brief email, providing no documentation, and placed the blame solely on the student for the communication error that triggered the problem.

He had also filed his application for a renewal of that scholarship in a timely manner during the winter quarter and provided his transcript, which would provide the information regarding his classes that was the reason given for rescinding the original award. He was never even notified that this application was apparently not processed.

I hope that his experience was unique, but in working with applicants to college as a counselor, I have to warn them not to rely on this source of funding as the selection process is quite subjective and the administration is flawed by obvious personnel problems.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Have a thorough personnel review conducted by an outside party, create an oversight committee to review awarding of funds.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Unlikely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Okay

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Unsure

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

November 26, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

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November 26, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara is 50 years old. It has consistently provided scholarhsips for students of Santa Barbara County with more than 30,000 scholarships totaling $65 million being awarded since 1962. The program is very efficient and I believe over 95% of donations are used directly for scholarhsips. The Foundation bellves that every motivated and deserving student should have a chance at college or a vocational education.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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