Decatur students receive help finding and applying for scholarships

February 13 – The Decatur School System has a new initiative to educate students about scholarship opportunities and help them apply.

Excel Center Deputy Director Mary Ann Hotaling has created a website listing all the local and national scholarships available to students. She has also assembled a team to help students through the scholarship process.

Hotaling said there are many scholarship opportunities that parents and students are unaware of because they are not at the state or national level.

“As parents and as a society, we’re so caught up in thinking that if our kids aren’t valedictorians or super athletes, then there’s no scholarship opportunity,” he said. Hotaling said. “That’s not true.”

Hotaling said she approached Decatur City Superintendent of Schools Michael Douglas last fall and told him about her plans for the scholarship initiative and gave students further instructions on how to apply for scholarships.

“Our senior guidance counselors are so busy they don’t have time to do it and I’m ready to do it,” Hotaling said.

When Hotaling started building her webpage, she would research all the scholarship opportunities she could find in the community and point and report them on the page.

“Any (scholarship opportunity) I could find, whether it was on social media or in the Decatur Daily, I would list it on the website,” Hotaling said.

Hotaling recruited a team this school year to help edit application essays and create college portfolios for students.

“I recruited about a dozen people from the northern Alabama area, who are mostly retired army officers who work at Redstone Arsenal,” said Hotaling, a former captain of the army and Ms. Veteran America in 2020-21. “I send the (scholarship application essays) to these volunteers and they edit them.”

Hotaling said his team members asked that their identities be anonymous.

“My team is being honest because they don’t know the student. None of them are from Decatur so they don’t know any of the last names and they could really give him an honest assessment,” Hotaling said. . “They edit them and send them back to me, and then I return them to the student to add to their application.”

The Hotaling team does not stop at editing application essays and creating college portfolios.

“If a student has a scholarship interview, we’ll do a dress rehearsal of the interviews with them,” Hotaling said. “We’ve already done that this year. We want students to be successful in speaking to this scholarship committee.”

If a student wants their application essay edited, Hotaling said, they should email their essay to her at [email protected] and she will send it to her team for let him edit it.

Anita Clarke, high school program and instruction manager, said any platform that exposes students to scholarship opportunities is a plus in the Decatur school system.

“(Hotaling) has helped ensure that our children have every opportunity to win funding to cover the cost of their schooling,” Clarke said.

From October through December, Clarke hosted several events called “FAFSA Night” at Austin High to help Decatur students and parents apply for federal college aid.

“We felt like having a parent night in our district would put us in a position to educate our parents about the available funds their child could earn,” Clarke said. “We had guests from local colleges who spoke with parents and students about financial opportunities at their institutions.”

Clarke said she expects more scholarships to be awarded to Decatur students this school year and in the future because of the many scholarship opportunities Hotaling has helped them discover.

The internet list of all available scholarships can be accessed by clicking on the scholarship button on the Decatur City Schools website,

Hotaling said there are currently over 50 scholarships listed on the website, ranging from $500 to $1,000 and consist of state, local and regional scholarships.

Hotaling said it helped 82 students this school year to write application essays, create college portfolios and help them complete the applications themselves.

[email protected] or 256-340-2438.

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