What does Independence Day mean to you? For many people, it’s another patriotic holiday that deserves our respect; a time to reflect on the struggles of our great nation, but also a time to celebrate all that we have accomplished in 237 years. One of the ways we love to show our pride is through social gatherings, big and small. As a child, I remember traveling to Michigan for our annual family picnic. All my aunts, uncles and cousins would be there, and everyone would bring their favorite foods. Grandpa was always in charge of the grill, making sure everything was cooked to perfection. Grandma’s task was to bake the best pies on the planet, and she never disappointed us. I would spend hours playing with sparklers, pulling pranks on my sister, and devouring all the tasty treats!
Now that I am older, I still enjoy hosting a barbecue with my own family every Fourth of July. The menu typically stays the same, with just a few variations, because my kids would pitch a fit if I left anything out. It’s funny, but when I was putting together my shopping list last week, I couldn't help but notice how many items in my cart were tied to actual scholarship programs. Don't believe me? Check out these star-spangled scholarships that somehow managed to appear on my holiday menu.
1. Apple Pie
What’s a picnic without an apple pie? Each year, the little town of Pentwater, Michigan hosts a scholarship pie contest to celebrate Independence Day. Up to 34 students are awarded $500 scholarships, but they don’t have to fill out an application or even submit an essay. Instead, they earn scholarship entries by baking pies or buying pies during the auction. Sounds like a delicious way to pay for college!
This tasty treat is not just for regular consumption at my family’s barbecue. No, we have watermelon eating contests, seed spitting contests, and some of my uncles have even been known to spike a few with libations. Nearly every state that derives income from watermelon has some pageant or scholarship program in late spring or early summer. For example, Knox County in Indiana will be hosting their annual Miss Watermelon Scholarship Pageant on July 31. The winning teenager will receive a $500 scholarship to use at any college, not to mention the opportunity to participate in several parades throughout her region.
3. Potato Salad
My sons live for July 4th because it’s one of the few times I will make my homemade potato salad. I toss in eggs, onion, celery and plenty of mayo, but having the perfect spuds is what can make or break the recipe. You would be surprised at how many potato-themed scholarships are available to students. Each spring, the National Potato Council awards a $10,000 scholarship to a graduate-level student whose research will benefit the potato industry, but that’s not all, there’s also a $5,000 Syngenta Potato Scholarship, which is available to high school and college students from several states. Who knew working with taters could be so rewarding?
Remember when I said my grandfather was the grill master? Unfortunately, I did not inherit his skills. Thankfully, I can always run by my nearest burger joint to pick up a bag or two, just in case I burn my own patties. I typically frequent McDonald’s or Wendy’s, since both offer juicy scholarship programs for students. High school athletes can compete for gift cards (up to $500 each) and large donations (up to $10,000 each) that will benefit their schools through the Wendy’s High School Heisman Program, and high school seniors can earn $1,000 scholarships from Ronald McDonald’s House Charities.
Even though I hate all the noise, you just can’t have Independence Day without a few fireworks. For those lucky high school and college students who live in Ohio (Trumbull, Mahoning or Stark County), Wholesale Fireworks offers two different scholarships programs through its Richard T. Naples, Sr. Education Foundation. Applications are accepted from January through March, each year.
6. Red, White & Blue
Above all other patriotic holidays, this one seems to evoke the most red, white and blue themed items. Just check out Pinterest and you’ll find everything from food to fashion utilizing these colors. Of course, we wouldn't be here if it wasn’t for those who fought valiantly to earn our freedom from England, so it makes sense that organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), would want to capture what patriotism means and reward students who exemplify the American spirit. Each year, the VFW hosts its Patriot’s Pen Essay Writing Contest, awarding 46 scholarships to middle school students. The winner walks away with $5,000. That’s something worth saluting!
And finally, what Fourth of July event would be complete without ice cream? Whether you love vanilla, strawberry or chocolate, it’s a must-have for those hot, summer nights. Nothing is better than relaxing after a long day, watching the fireworks display, while licking your favorite flavor. While you're busy enjoying a cone or dish of your favorite ice cream this holiday, be sure to head over to the Flavor of the Month Scholarship and enter for a chance to receive $1,500 for college. Winning it would definitely be a sweet ending to a perfect summer celebration!
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