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Scholarship Providers of the Year Named

Scholarship Providers of the Year Named

Megan Barnes (left) and Kathy Simon Abels (right), from the Simon Family Foundation, accept the Independent Scholarship Provider of the Year Award from FastWeb Publisher, Mark Kantrowitz (center).

By Lauren Anderson Youngblood

October 29, 2009

“We wanted to intervene before kids got to college—to help students who should go to college but probably couldn’t without our help,” Abels said. “We give them two things: the financial means and the message that we believe in them, which is a powerful message.”

Mike Ammerman, also with the Simon Foundation, said for the organization, it’s not about selecting the most high-performing kids with the best GPAs.

“Our mission is to change lives,” Ammerman said. “So we’re looking for kids with lots of potential.”

Naomi Wadkins, Scholarship Advisor at Auburn, accepted the award for the University. Auburn’s Provost Leadership Undergraduate Scholarship Retention Program (PLUS) provides undergraduate students from underserved and at risk populations each year with a renewable $2,000 scholarship.


Naomi Wadkins (right), from Auburn University, accepts the award for the College and University Scholarship Provider of the Year.

Auburn’s program supports students academically and socially through a week-long orientation program leadership seminars, study and tutoring sessions, college success seminars (including time management and note-taking and study skills), peer mentoring and career counseling. The program also encourages the students to consider pursuing graduate degree programs after they receive a Bachelor’s degree. Many of the students are first generation college students.

Kantrowitz said he hand-selected these two scholarship providers because they are role models for other scholarship providers. The running theme at the conference was proactive intervention programs, he said, and ensuring that students not only get to college, but succeed.

“Both of this year’s winners demonstrate that scholarships are about more than just providing money for college,” Kantrowitz said. “It’s about eliminating all barriers to student success.”

Abels said the Simon Family Foundation now offers other assistance to other philanthropists interested in creating similar scholarships of their own, so they don’t have to “recreate the wheel”.

For more information on the Ronal Simon Family Foundation, see their website at
To learn more about Auburn University’s PLUS Retention Program see And for more information on The National Scholarship Providers Association, visit

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