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Decisions with Impact: Inside the Selection Process of the Josephine Lilly Wolf Memorial Scholarship Foundation

Written by: Marc Havens, JLWMSF Treasurer

It’s a heavy thing knowing a decision you make has the potential to profoundly change a person’s life. Decisions like that can’t be taken lightly and require humility, empathy, and compassion.

2024 marks year eight of the Josephine Lilly Wolf Memorial Scholarship Foundation selecting students from Mannings School in Westmoreland, Jamaica. For my wife Staci and I, it was our first trip to Jamaica as part of the team blessed with an opportunity to bless others. Being part of the foundation for several years, we had a general sense of the process, but had never had the chance to meet and interview prospective scholarship recipients in person. It was also the first-time meeting several of our current students and graduates.

Our team arrived the weekend of May 18 having studied fifteen candidate packets which included an application, grade reports, letters of recommendation, an essay, and college acceptance letters. What seems like a lot of information really isn’t, when you consider it’s the culmination of a young person’s educational journey. Trying to catch a glimpse of someone through documents alone is hard, which is why meeting the students in person is so critical to our selection process.

We spent Monday, May 20 reviewing and discussing the student information while we anticipated the following day, which was our chance to meet the students. On Tuesday morning, myself (Marc), Shayne, Staci and Chantal were driven by our Jamaican escort (and friend) Andre to the Mannings School in Savanna-la-Mar, about thirty minutes from where we were staying.

We arrived at the school around 8:30 AM and met some of the staff, including the school’s principal and two of the school’s counselors (Ms. Hall and Mr. Pierce) who are instrumental in the foundation’s success. Interviews were conducted in a small room and began promptly at 9 AM.

Over the course of the next seven hours we met fifteen students, each with their own story and desperate to earn the support of our foundation. It’s hard to find words to describe that time but a few that come to mind are joy, faith, hardship, tears, anger, resilience, exhaustion, poverty, worry, family (broken and intact), confidence, persistence, humility, and hope.

We spent the next day or two contemplating our interactions with the students, their responses to our questions, their questions for us, financial need, areas of educational and occupational interest, and ultimately our individual views of which candidates have the potential to be successful at university and impactful within Jamaica. None of this was easy and, while there is exceptional joy in selecting students, there is a profound heaviness in knowing we cannot select them all. Going in, we anticipated selecting two or three students, but Thursday afternoon we selected four! Relaying our decision to Ms. Hall and hearing the joy in her voice was one of the highlights of our trip. Knowing that she and Mr. Pierce would have to tell eleven other students they were not selected was sobering.

Josephine Lilly Wolf Memorial Scholarship Foundation exists only through the generosity of our donors and volunteers. I wish all those involved had the opportunity to look into the eyes of the students seeking our help and could hear their stories of struggle and triumph. Absent that opportunity, I hope these few words give you a sense of the importance of what we are doing and the relevance of those for whom we do it.



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