Last weekend I attended the Georgia Rotary Student Program Summer Meeting. I was impressed by the dedication of so many Rotarian GRSP trustees, directors and of course our two staff members from the Savannah office. These people are the backbone of this unique program.
There is a perception in some clubs that GRSP is a scholarship program, meant to give a deserving student from a foreign land the opportunity to better themselves via a year of study in the United States. In fact this is not, and has never been, the goal of the program. GRSP is a peace program, a cultural scholarship. It is not a needs-based academic scholarship.
The goal of the GRSP program is to identify talented, ambitious kids from all over the world, bring them to Georgia for a transformative year at a critical time in their lives, where they learn about other cultures and establish life long friendships with other talented and ambitious young people. Our hope is that when these young people return to their home countries they will grow to become leaders in their professions and never forget the lessons learned on Georgia’s campuses and Rotary clubs. GRSP is a bet on the leadership of the world.
GRSP is unique to Georgia. The program was established after World War II by returning veterans who, seared by their experience in Europe, believed that if the people of the world knew each other better and made friends of each other they would not war among themselves. They believed that by bringing young people to America to learn more about America and to get to know not only Americans but other students from around the world, this would greatly promote peace and and prevent conflict. Promoting peace is one of Rotary’s six areas of focus and it is said that Rotary’s ultimate goal is world peace. I think most would agree in today’s conflict-riven world, GRSP has never been more relevant.
We should not forget all the new Rotarians who have joined us in recent years. It is highly likely they have only the vaguest notion of the power and importance of the GRSP program and indeed there are many experienced Rotarians who may not clearly understand GRSP. I urge every club to make a practice of holding at least one program a year dedicated to GRSP. Make sure your members, especially your newer members, are up to speed on the program. I leave it to the clubs and their GRSP trustees as to what would work best for the club, but such a program might be held when the student arrived and might include an introduction of the student, a report on the club’s GRSP foundation support, and recognition for those who are supporting the program both financially and otherwise. I would also encourage the club’s GRSP trustee to describe how the program works and give some examples of how the program has transformed specific lives. If a club is not able at present to sponsor a student, I still urge the club to hold such a program and encourage the trustee for the club to bring along a student from another club so the club can see first-hand the caliber of the kids in the program, remembering that every Georgia Rotarian contributes to GRSP through their club district dues.
(If you do not know who your club’s trustee is, never fear; that information is now posted on the District website under Club Finder > GRSP Trustee Assignments. The club GRSP trustee also should now show up in the various leadership pages on the site.)
Here are a few facts gleaned from this weekend’s summer meeting:
Program Budget. GRSP spends about $1.2 million a year. About 85% of that money goes to support the students, with the remaining 15% devoted to operating expenses, principally the two GRSP employees and office in Savannah.
Program Endowment. Rotarians over the years have built the GRSP endowment to just under $14 million. Income on the endowment now accounts for about 35% of the cost of the program, providing a tuition subsidy of $5,250 for every student. Georgia colleges and universities give the GRSP program a significant tuition break, but it is no secret that over the past ten years, tuition and student fees have soared. As a result some clubs have been forced to drop out of the Georgia Rotary Student Program. It is because of the foresight of those who came before us to build the endowment that more clubs have not been forced to drop out.
District Dues Support. Every Rotarian supports GRSP to some degree through our District Dues, $7 per capita of which goes directly to the GRSP program.
Incentive Program. To encourage clubs to continue to contribute to the endowment, every club that contributes $50 per member to the endowment and sponsors or co-sponsors a student gets additional support from the endowment for the costs of sponsoring the student. The rules of the incentive are complex and the amounts vary by year, but are usually significant.
Parental Support. While we provide a full scholarship to all GRSP students, we should not forget that each student's family must pay for airfare, make sure the student has adequate spending money and is insured during their stay in the United States. For many families, these costs can be significant.
GRSP Conclave. Our district is hosting this year’s GRSP conclave, with the Bainbridge club taking the lead. Click here to reserve. It is an experience you will never regret.
Bottom Line. Think peace, not scholarship. Consider working with your GRSP trustee to hold a full program for your club on GRSP. And if $50 per capita is within reach, go for it and free up some money for more service elsewhere.
As always, feel free to comment and share your opinions.