Editorial: We Cannot Defer the Future
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
-Langston Hughes, poem “Harlem”
On our Spotlight page today, the work of people who believe scholarship is important, and the young people who will benefit from their efforts is prominently displayed.
The Cummins/Wham Scholarship recipients are announced and thereby honored for the efforts they put forth to get to a place of recognition. One of the community’s most outstanding voices, Lumus Byrd Jr., is shown with these remarkable young people, honored at awards programs and graduations - given the chance to advance their education through scholarships. Their mothers and fathers had the chance to earn scholarships, as did their mothers and fathers before them. Scholarships are not entitlements - they are rewards. Scholarships are a community telling its future leaders, “You are worth the investment, you will lead us into the future.” Throughout the United States, millions of scholarship dollars are distributed each spring. Young people come to the podium or stand in place at graduations to be pointed out as “scholarship recipients.” It’s more than a matter of pride - it’s an affirmation. “You are worth it.”
Laurens County must not back down from this affirmation. Even as other priorities rise to the forefront, and overtake funding sources for the Laurens County Future Scholarship, the value of the scholarship itself is not diminished.
Unfortunately, we have come to believe the wrong-headed thinking that says, “Not everybody is college material” and “A lot of people who are rich never went to college.” The truth is, college teaches poets - and we need those dreamers among us; college teaches welders - and we need people who can join together two pieces of metals in an unbreakable bond.
The tenuous nature of the Laurens County Future Scholarship was chronicled in our May 17 issue. This is portion of that report:
“The program began paying tuition costs in 2015 and has enough money to pay for the 2017 fall semester before running out of funds. LCFS is administered by the Laurens County Community Foundation (LCCF). ‘The Future Scholarship program is in dire straits,’ Dr. Cynthia Jones, chairman of the community foundation, said. ‘If we don’t get more money, we can afford one more semester.’ Robin Day, LCCF executive director, said the students receiving the scholarships are majoring in manufacturing (28%) and healthcare (25%), with 26% seeking an advanced four-year degree. The average GPA of Future Scholarship students id 3.25, Day said, with a retention rate (those who return to school the following semester) of 91%. The average retention rate is usually in the low 60% range, Day said. The Future Scholarship fund is paying for between 85 and 109 students and the average cost to LCFS is $537 per student. Based on applications, the number of students is expected to increase ‘significantly,’ she said. Future Scholarship is supported financially by contributions from individuals, with the majority of the funding coming from five entities – the City of Clinton, the City of Laurens, the Town of Gray Court, PRTC and GHS/Laurens County Memorial Hospital.”
The scholarship allows our high school graduates to attend Piedmont Technical College and the University of South Carolina-Union at Laurens. These are the entry point levels for young people going to college - they can go into the workforce or military with these degrees, they can go on to four-year, public or private colleges for advanced degrees. They can become doctors. They can become computer repairmen. But, most important, whatever their path, they have the chance.
That’s what most people want - the chance not to have their dreams deferred. Because, life takes over. Some go back later and get that degree; many others do not. Those “do nots” are always left with that thought, “What if.”
We cannot erase all the “what ifs” in life. We can, however, light the path for those who will inherit our community.