By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — —
Youth in the community will have an opportunity to learn how to swim, thanks to the Parks and Recreation Department Scholarship program.
“The scholarship program addresses what I believe is a real need in our community,” said Parks and Facilities Director George Bryant. “The program is an opportunity for members of the community to contribute to our youth who may not otherwise have the financial means to participate.”
The scholarship program was approved Tuesday by the City Council and a donation from the family of the late Bill Elzy.
“A memorial fund has been established for the scholarship,” Bryant said. “I received a letter from the Elzy family, and their request fit in perfectly with the program we have been planning to kick off.”
Bryant received a letter from Ken Elzy, Bill Elzy’s nephew, requesting to start the memorial fund with seed money in hopes the program would grow.
“My uncle, Bill Elzy, loved being outdoors and walking, looking at the flowers and the trees, loved to fish,” the letter stated. “But most important, he loved watching kids play. He always said he loved the freedom of childhood. He taught me to play ball; in his younger days he kept a ball and glove in his car — it was nothing for him to play catch with a group of kids on the ball fields.
“I set up the memorial fund to the park because he loved it there,” the letter continues. “He always talked about the new items you have, the flower gardens, benches. You and your staff have done an amazing job. That park (Veterans Park) was an abandoned rust bucket. Now, it’s something this town can be proud of again. There’s not a day goes by that there aren’t kids playing, people walking and couples sitting on the benches and swings talking.
“I wanted you to know that your hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. Keep up the good work, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the future.”
Bryant said the letter and donation has touched many people already.
“What he’s saying is the heart of what we’re here working for,” Bryant said.
Under terms of the scholarship program, the scholarship is based on need and availability of funds and will be awarded on a first come, first served basis.
“Need must be shown to be considered for a scholarship,” information states. “Documentation of eligibility is also required at the time the scholarship application is submitted. The scholarship request application, along with the additional documentation of eligibility, will need to be submitted to the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department at least one week before the registration deadline of the program, or at least two weeks prior to the program start, whichever is earlier.”
Bryant said there is also a provision that the scholarship doesn’t cover the entire cost of the program in order to help foster a sense of ownership and pride. The minimum fee required with a scholarship is $5.
“The Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department believes a strong sense of ownership and pride is developed when the scholarship recipient contributes to the cost of their program involvement,” the information states. “Therefore, applicants will be required to pay a minimum fee for each program or class. Scholarship recipients must participate in the program for which the scholarship was granted. Scholarship money cannot be transferred or refunded. Scholarship money does not cover equipment or material expenses. An approved scholarship request application does not guarantee registration in the program. Program applicants must follow the normal registration process.”
Bryant said even if someone pays $5 for the ability to participate in the swimming program, with a scholarship, it means something.
“I am a strong believer in having a strong sense of ownership in whatever you are doing,” Bryant said. “I think that’s what will make the program successful.”
Under the eligibility requirements for the program, applicants must reside in the city; the household income must be below the current year U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for the number of family members in the household; the maximum funding is $100 per individual per year; the funding will only cover instructional programs run directly through the parks department; and youth must be 17 years old or younger. A current driver’s license, utility bill, apartment lease or tax bill may verify residency and proof of income eligibility such as a reduced school lunch meal letter, a public housing certification, proof of income such as a pay stub or tax return, state medical card or parent’s unemployment check or approval letter.
Additional information about the scholarship program, as well as application requests are available at the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Office located at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Center at Veterans Park.