Achievement Beyond Obstacles (ABO Reno) began in 1996 as a local Rotary Club program to support youth in our community, specifically students in their senior year of high school who despite having faced enormous personal challenges, found a way to stay on a road to graduation.
The program has grown to be a charitable 501c (3) foundation with the support of three additional Rotary Clubs and all 20 high schools in Washoe County, including charter and private schools, have counselors select as many as 40 students to participate each year.
The program is run by volunteer Rotarians, including an Executive Board of Directors. It starts with an intensive 18- hour Leadership Training weekend led by two nationally recognized motivational and leadership counselors, Dean and Rochelle Whellams.
The weekend is life changing for many of these students when they may have very little positive adult support and encouragement. By the end of the weekend, these students discover that their life does not have to be defined by their struggles.
Throughout the course of the weekend, friendships are made, and an awareness sets in that they are not alone, and a bright future is attainable. In a short amount of time, these young adults gain tools that will help lead them to success in school and in life.
In addition to self-discovery and confidence building, the program provides additional training to help the students navigate the steps necessary to further their education whether it be community college, a four-year institution or trade school.
The program includes a Financial Literacy Workshop where students and staff at Truckee Meadows Community College help them complete complicated forms that are often a barrier to their obtaining additional financial assistance. They also learn about the actual costs of college or other continuing education and are given information about how to plan and budget.
The program also offers an Effective Communication Workshop to help with public interaction skills, public speaking, and interviews. New to the program in recent years is a Mentoring component, which utilizes the Dean’s Future Scholars program at the University of Nevada Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College. Activities in this area of the ABO Program include meeting with successful college students and ABO alumni.
Students who complete the Leadership Weekend are invited to bring 2 guests to a Rotary luncheon in their honor, where they share their story and plans for their future. Each student receives $100 for completing the program.
Judges then select 10- 12 of these students for an additional scholarship interview. Selected students receive from $500 to $3,500 scholarships. Thanks to generous donors, the number of scholarships and the amounts have increased over the last several years, from $20,000 in eleven awards in 2016, to more than $45,000 in twenty-nine awards in 2020. This includes more than $25,000 currently being awarded to continuing students.
Currently, several ABO students are attending graduate school and law school. The pandemic created new challenges starting with the conclusion of the program for last year’s class of students and required the planning committee to come up with creative ways to have an interview process and award scholarships, and plan for the 2020/2021 school year.
Previous face-to-face workshops will be held via Zoom and Leadership Weekend will be held in a new location that provides social distancing without compromising the benefit to the students.
The youth in our community are the future of our community and this program inspires some of the most fragile students to believe in themselves and gives them an opportunity to receive financial assistance so they can realize their goals and become productive adults. Donations to this program go directly to funding scholarships.
From a former student in the ABO program:
Dear Rotary Club family, I would like to personally thank you for all the different things I have learned and gained In the last 6 months since I first was Introduced to this amazing program. Not only was I given the opportunity to go to college but I also grew so much as a person. Most importantly I felt special. You all gave me the encouragement I needed my whole life. I was shown that I was strong. You helped me learn that I could overcome my past. So thank you. Thank you for showing me I can be better than I was the day before. ♥ Jacqueline G.
To make a 100% contribution to the scholarship fund, please make check payable to Achievement Beyond Obstacles and mail to: 4790 Caughlin Pkwy #210, Reno, NV 89519.
This article was provided by Achievement Beyond Obstacles (ABO Reno); Plumas Bank sponsors this content.