Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese

Student Scholarships at Cao Thai

By Volunteer Renee Lorence
Project XII Participant

The bus pulled off of a main road onto a long driveway lined with fields of grasses. We passed through the gate of Cao Thai School and we excitedly got off the bus. Teachers and staff of the school greeted us with smiles. As we walked to the meeting room we were awed at how bright and well groomed the school and grounds were. Trees and flowers could be seen through out the courtyard and entryway. We entered a staff room where we sat around long tables where both sides gave introductions and thanks.

Today we would be handing out 52 scholarships to students. To qualify the students must come from families with economic difficulties, while at the same time showing they were dedicated to their schooling. We were happy to be helping students to attend school and at the same time the school was grateful for the help.

I thought of the freedoms that families (all over the world) gain when they have enough money to meet their needs.

After our introductions ended, we headed up to the auditorium where students and parents were already waiting for us. As the last person from the Friendship Foundation was seated, the students and parents broke out into, “We wish you a merry Christmas.”

With such a friendly welcome Gia Hoa began the introductions for the scholarships. One by one, students came forward to receive their scholarship. One by one, we took our turns going forward to hand out the scholarships to the students. In the time in-between I watched the children go forward, bow or shake hands, say thanks and then head back to their seats. As this procession unfolded before me, my thoughts went to a scholarship I received in college. The scholarship allowed me to study for one semester in another county. I remember how excited, grateful, and yet how humbled I was to receive such an opportunity. With this memory in the forefront of my mind I remembered how excited I was for the future. I looked at the children's intent faces and how, for many of them, this would guarantee that they could attend school. The smiles on the young students faces shown like the hope for the future.

A few more times I took my turn handing out scholarships. After the scholarships were handed out we all got up and started meeting the students. The students were of varying ages and so was their English language ability; but the enthusiasm on both sides helped to get a lot across. We handed out Christmas/New Years cards that were made by Japanese students. We wrote messages on the cards and talked about music, family and our home countries.

All too soon it was time to go which started a long period of final goodbyes. I headed towards the bus. As I turned to go I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned around and met the eyes of a young girl whom I had given a scholarship too. She held her envelope tightly in her hands. She looked at me and said, “Thank you very much!” We both bowed and I said, “Your welcome.” We parted smiling.

As we pulled away the children and staff waved. On the bus I sat in quiet daze. I thought of the freedoms that families (all over the world) gain when they have enough money to meet their needs. Education is an expensive but crucial need that opens possibilities to those who seek them. Although it has been hard for me to ask for economic support during my schooling I am glad I did as these children reminded me of how humbling, yet empowering it can be when a special envelope opens the future to you.

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