In 1995 the San Diego Padres established a college scholarship program, Padres Scholars, the first of its kind in Major League Baseball. The goal of the program is to empower students who are academically talented yet financially challenged to believe they can go to college and to provide the financial support to help them do so. Over the past 17 years nearly 200 different Padres players have contributed to the cause, many making this their charitable priority with the Club.
One Scholar wrote in to say: "Meeting the players was awesome all my family was so proud and jealous of me. Walking on the field with thousands of proud eyes on me means so much to a kid like me. It gives me hope and strength to continue my life proud with a good mind set knowing that I can become something in this world."
Another wrote: "Becoming a Padres Scholar and winning this scholarship is my greatest achievement. I know I have set a great example among my family and my peers. I have worked very hard to receive this award and I will not let it go to waste. Just like Mark Twain once said - It is better to deserve honors and not have them, than to have them and not deserve them."
After 15 years, 389 Scholars and $2.2 million designated toward scholarships ($976,000 directly from uniformed players), we determined that it was time to re-evaluate the program and Padres Scholars was introduced with a new look in 2010 that continues in 2011.
The current Padres Scholars program focuses on developing an enhanced relationship with the Scholars, allowing for increased contact and more oversight of the Scholars' academic progress. Fewer Scholars were selected in 2010 and again in 2011 and each student is awarded a much more significant scholarship.
Despite these changes, one of the strongest components of this program - collaborative involvement and support of the players and ownership - remains a constant. Padres' catcher, Nick Hundley, volunteered to be the player mentor for this program. He solicits donations from his teammates with the goal of reaching 100% participation. Padres ownership matches the player donations dollar-for-dollar.
In 2011, the Padres are providing $30,000 scholarships to three high school seniors, each headed to a four-year college. This scholarship is awarded over a four-year period and incentivizes the students to keep in contact with the Padres and ensures that the Scholars provide annual academic and citizenship updates.
To date, this program has directly impacted 396 students, but the scholarships extend beyond the individual receiving the award. It positively affects younger siblings and family members. Our Padres Scholars demographics skew to about 70% Hispanic and the typical Hispanic family unit is much larger than just the immediate family.
The Padres Scholars scholarship is a competitive and coveted award that teachers, principals and administrators boast about to their peers. It is a sign of achievement, not only for the student, but also for the teachers and schools. After the announcement of the winning Scholars is made, many schools plan assemblies celebrating the success of the AVID program and the Padres Scholars Scholarship award.
Since the programs inception, we have distributed more than $996,000 in scholarship payments to four year colleges and universities including Yale, Harvard, UCLA , UC Berkeley and UCSD.