Individual donors are sponsoring 36 Catholic eighth-graders as they move on to high school through the Catholic Community Foundation’s Christian Service Awards program. The competitive scholarships were awarded March 3. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Community Foundation)
The Christian Service Awards are $8,000 grants given to students who:
  • Are practicing Catholics registered within the Diocese of Phoenix;
  • Exemplify Christ-centered behavior through volunteer service to parish, school, and community;
  • Plan to attend a Catholic high school within the Diocese of Phoenix;
  • Are in 8th grade at the time of application; and
  • Have volunteered 100+ hours to parish, school and community between August 15 of 6th grade year and August 15 of 8th grade year.

For more information, visit the Catholic Community Foundation’s website.

Eighth-grader Stephanie Hamrick was nervous when she was called upon to counsel a peer who was pregnant through the pro-life organization she volunteers with, Voces Unidas por la Vida.

“She was very open to what we had to say to her,” recalls Hamrick a student and parishioner at St. Timothy in Mesa. “We showed her her ultrasound and she wanted to keep her baby. Seeing the ultrasound changed her perspective on abortion, and knowing it’s a real person inside of them, it changes their minds and hearts. I was really happy to help her.”

Hamrick was one of 36 students to receive the Christian Service Award March 3 at St. Mary’s High School. It’s an annual scholarship program through the Catholic Community Foundation that recognizes students for their service to the greater community. The scholarships provide $2,000 per year for four years toward tuition at any of the Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Phoenix.

“The primary objective is to encourage service in our elementary school kids,” said Rick Frisch, CCF president and CEO. “This is a really unique and interesting approach to trying to … strengthen our young people’s capacity to not only make a difference in the community that they live in, but to make a difference as they go through life. If you imbue kids with the responsibility of service, they begin to understand its value and its impact and how it makes them feel,” he added.

With the 36 students receiving the Christian Service Awards this year, that makes a total of 312 students who’ve received the award in the program’s 16-year history, and by the time they begin their freshman year in August, $2.5 million will have been awarded. Individual donors sponsor the scholarships.

To qualify for the awards, eighth-grade students must be practicing Catholics, plan to attend a Catholic high school in the diocese and have completed at least 100 hours of community service between Aug. 15 of their sixth-grade year and Aug. 15 of their eighth-grade year. They also submit an essay and are interviewed by a committee. The students do not have to be currently enrolled in a Catholic school to apply.

“Almost every one of these kids does this service in the context of Christian service; it’s not just ‘I’m getting my hours in to get this scholarship,’ it’s ‘I’m doing this because as a Catholic and a Christian, I know that there is need in our community,’” said Frisch. “It’s less about the hours than it is about the impact and I think that’s the compelling thing with all of them — it’s really a desire to make a difference.”

The service also varies. While Hamrick, who plans to attend Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler, gave her time to the pro-life cause, Logan Schipansky devoted his time to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Schipansky, who attends St. John XXIII School and goes to Blessed Sacrament Parish, both in Scottsdale, said volunteering is a family affair, and delivers food with his family once or twice a month.

“My parents are very religious people. They signed me up to volunteer at different places,” said Schipansky, who plans to attend Notre Dame Preparatory. “It helps me see hand-in-hand what Jesus taught us — to love our brothers and sisters. … It’s part of my lifestyle now.”