By tamaraWhen I started college in 2004, I enrolled at my local community college. As a working mom, it provided the flexibility I needed and was less expensive than the 4-year colleges in my area. I enjoyed the smaller classes and the opportunity to get to know my professors really well. Soon after my first semester, I received a letter from Phi Theta Kappa congratulating me on my academic success and inviting me to join their honor society. I was unfamiliar with the organization, but after a few inquiries, I soon found that many on campus held the organization in high regard. Intrigued, I decided to attend an upcoming chapter meeting to learn more. To my surprise, the chapter was not filled with a bunch of nerds or snobby scholars; the group was very diverse and included students from all walks of life. As an older student, this put me at ease. Much of the meeting focused on the chapter’s upcoming events, which included several volunteer activities. Through these activities, members could earn points that were attached to incentives, such as graduation regalia and other Phi Theta Kappa perks. Another selling point was the various scholarship opportunities offered through the organization. Although there was a one-time membership fee, I decided to give Phi Theta Kappa a chance and see what doors it might open for me. After my first chapter activity, I was hooked! I soon threw myself into every opportunity presented. I attended several Phi Theta Kappa conferences, which gave me the chance to network with other like-minded individuals, and I even stepped up as the chapter president my final year of community college. My time with the organization opened my eyes to other opportunities, including a career in the nonprofit world. I also found that my extensive community service work and high academic marks opened the door to several scholarship programs. Here are just a few of scholarships provided by Phi Theta Kappa, including the Guistwhite Scholarship, which I received in 2006. 1. Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship This new scholarship program helps students who may not otherwise be able to complete their degree due to an unexpected financial hardship. Up to ten $500 scholarships are provided per year. Students must be enrolled for a minimum of six semester hours and have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. 2. Hites Transfer Scholarship Each year, Phi Theta Kappa awards $75,000 in scholarships through this program. Students who demonstrate high academic achievement (3.5 GPA or higher) and are planning to transfer to a 4-year college are eligible to receive one of ten $7,500 awards. 3. Guistwhite Scholarship Program This merit-based scholarship program was created to recognize those students who not only excel in the classroom, but also in the community. Recipients are selected based on their academic record (3.5 GPA or higher), leadership positions, community service and engagement in Phi Theta Kappa programs. Up to 20 members each receive a $5,000 scholarship to assist in the completion of a baccalaureate degree. 4. Community College Academic Teams Phi Theta Kappa also works closely with USA Today and Coca-Cola to promote scholarship opportunities through the All-USA Community College Academic Team and Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team. Each program, which is also open to non-members, provides a variety of awards, ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500. Being a member of Phi Theta Kappa can also give you an advantage in other scholarship programs, such as the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. In fact, 50 of the 60 scholars in 2012 were members of Phi Theta Kappa. Nine years later, I am still friends with my chapter adviser and several people I met during through Phi Theta Kappa. The organization not only provided me with financial opportunities, but also connections that guided me to the career I hold today. I would have never known the enormous satisfaction of giving back to others or discovered my true passion had I never joined this remarkable organization. If you receive an invitation to join, I encourage you to check it out; it just might change your life.