Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DMT Scholarship Update


I just finished reading 373 scholarship applications (108 of which came right before the deadline, which was two days ago). My brain is officially fried. I had hoped to have the winner named by now, but figured it might be best to wait for the letters on the computer screen to come into focus again before I start handing out free money.

While the project has been daunting, it’s been an education in itself. Man, there are a lot of young people with dreams out there. Here are just a few:

— one guy from California State Fullerton wants to tour Europe, learning historic European martial arts (with swords and shields and stuff).

— a gal from UC Irvine wants to chase tornadoes and another dude from from the same school wants to swim with sharks off the coast of South Africa.

— a dude from U. of Florida Gainsville wants to retrace the route of Columbus, and take a sailboat across the Atlantic in a hurricane.

— one gal wants to track down her lover in Ireland.

— a gal from City College at Berkeley wants to fight alongside the Zapatistas in Mexico.

— a gal from Florida State wants to drive up to Alaska.

— a dude from Eastern wants to build earthships in Gaza.

— one guy wants to have a blood transfusion with a Bengal tiger!

— a girl from U. of Vermont wants to tour Australia, and a gal from Cornell wants to hug a giraffe in Africa, and another from U. of C. Merced wants to visit Russia.

— a guy from U. of C. Irvine wants to honor the memory of his father with a cross-country bike trip to Burning Man, and another dude from McGill wants to cycle down North America’s West Coast.

— one gal wants to start an NGO to help find missing travelers, and a “tiny” girl from Johns Hopkins wants to climb the New Hampshire “48”—all 48 mountain peaks above 4,000 feet.

— a guy from Florida State wants to take a boat down the Amazon and another from Florida State (what’s with all the Seminoles?) wants to go on a tour of WWII battlegrounds to see all the sights his grandfather used to tell him about.

I should admit that—for every great applicant—there were several… umm... not-so-great applicants. One gal wanted to use the money to clubbing in Vegas, several wanted the money to buy cameras, and another’s dream was to become a Victoria Secret model. I’d say more than half of the applicants were looking for money for tuition, missions, or study abroad programs. These are all undeniably good and honorable—but not what we were looking for.

Many wanted to tour Europe or go on a road trip across the U.S.—and while these dreams have the potential to be earth-shattering and life-altering—we favored something a little more rugged and daring. Others wanted to tour all seven continents and become world travelers—this was great too, but we wanted a dream that had some sort of developed plan and a more precise goal.

Needless to say, I was inspired. To have over 350 apply to this is encouraging--it tells me that there are probably thousands, (millions!) who want to break away from school and work and the status quo.

I tire of people who call my generation apathetic and distracted and complacent. Every applicant was so hopeful and optimistic and brimming with dreams. Each wanted to better themselves, help humanity, or save the planet. Give our generation a cause and the opportunity, and we will wow you—I am sure of it.

Anyway, I will announce the winner hopefully within the next week or two. I apologize to all those dreamers who I cannot help out, and I thank everyone who’s donated to make this scholarship possible!

31 comments:

Gloria said...

Are the dreams that you listed some of the top contenders?

Anonymous said...

Oh man, mine wasn't one of them listed. I hope not!

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to regret not being so specific in my paper.

Diane said...

I'm really addicted to your blog and although I feel bad for those that aren't getting the scholarship - realistically not everyone is going to win. People need to learn not to take it personally, it doesn't mean their dream is worth any less.

Ken said...

Gloria--yeah, some are the top contenders, others just stood out in my memory because I'd just read them today.

Anons--If yours wasn't mentioned, it doesn't mean that it isn't being considered.

Diane--well said. No one's dream is better or worse than someone else's. Having to reject so many people is really going to stink... I'm not looking forward to writing that email.

Anonymous said...

How many people do you have it narrowed down to right now?

Anonymous said...

some of those are awesome. Will we get to read the winner(s) essays?

Ken said...

Anon--I have it narrowed down to one, but I'm double checking a few things before making it final.

Anon--they are great. It makes me think that I could make a good travel/adventure magazine out of the applicant's stories. I'm not too keen on what passes for a travel periodical these days. And yes, the winner's essay will be featured on the blog. I hope to persuade him/her to write a series of travel essays for this blog.

kenavo said...

You cannot help all those youngsters, but you gave them inspiration, which is worth more than diamants!

Kate said...

I hope whoever wins will take every opportunity along the way to make the absolute best out of their journey.

Ken, you can't give everyone $1000, but you did give all of us something that we didn't have before..a chance. Im not sure about everyone else, but for me, the process of writing this essay gave me something to look forward to this summer after my graduation. You have forced me to refocus on my dreams and be more determined than ever to see them through.

Whatever decision you make will be the right one. I love what you are doing!

Josh said...

Kate - that's very self-aware. That was one of the positive side-effects we were hoping for: if someone writes down "this is my dream" it becomes a landmark moment. The next will come when you begin it.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't getting the scholarship entail that the person write regular updates about their trip?

Ken said...

Kenevao--thanks ;)

Kate--I'm touched and tickled that the essay had such a positive effect. Perhaps there is some useful corollary to the application process.

Anon--in an ideal situation that would be great. But the very last thing I want is for the adventurer to be nagged with the obligation to constantly record and publish his/her experiences. It could be especially bothersome, if not impossible, when traveling through remote areas. I think it might be nice to get a pre-trip preparation post, several posts with pictures and short descriptions while on the journey, and then maybe one long travel essay at the end. Obviously, the more the merrier, but I think what I propose above would suffice.

Anonymous said...

The suspense is killing me!

Mary said...

I don't mean to be dissing on what Kate said, because I think it's wonderful. Especially since many kids are starting to so easily give up on their dreams in light of new career paths. However, I think there's something to be said for those people who have never given up on their dreams and who keep on trying to attain them no matter how many times life has let them down. I'm not saying that people who have given up on their dreams don't deserve a second chance to attain them, because it's wonderful that they've rediscovered that passion. I'm just saying that it would be nice to give the award to someone who has always had that deep desire and even though they might have thought about it, they didn't give up on it b/c it meant to much to them. But then again, I'm sure these are the people who will, in the end, accomplish their dreams with or withoutthe scholarship - because their use to not giving up on something that is so much a part of them. So HURRAH to those who didn't need to be reminded and to those that have been and are now doing something about it!

Kate said...

Mary, I completely agree. Except I think you misunderstood where I was trying to go with that statement. My intent was that everyone would stop for a second and think about it in a new light. I just want others to be appreciative of the opportunity.

Personally, I am going on my trip this summer whether or not I win the scholarship..or any money for that matter. I have thought about this journey for many years and it's not that I ever gave up on it, but it is so easy to get caught up in the fast track of life and lose sight of your original intentions, even if only temporarily. There is a never ending list of things that can do this to us, for me, it was my intense major, where "what you should be doing" and "this kind of work will make you successful" is being shoved down my throat every semester.

The pressures of life can bury the true being within all of us. College did it to me. But now, with graduation ahead of me, I see light at the end of the tunnel because I am accepting the fact that I don't HAVE to do what I went to school far. Being happy is far better than having money.

Britt said...

Well said Kate. I see this happening in my everyday college life and I know that we should all live in the present, but as college students, we're constantly told to face reality and get a job that will support us in this poor economy. For this reason I sacrificed all of my high school summers working and my college summers in unpaid internships. Meanwhile, I'm holding onto this dream and saving up for it, wondering when I'll ever have a chance. It wasn't until this year (junior) when I was worriedly applying to this HUGE internship and all my profs said I'd be perfect for it but I'd have to pay out the wazzoo for housing and etc in this particular area. And it hit me, why in the hell would I pay so much money to do another unpaid internship when I can put the money towards completing my dream. I had been saving up in high school and college for it but I always put it off bc of other "more important" bills that needed to be paid. Well, I just came to the realization that some times the most important bill should go towards one's happiness!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Is it bad that I cringe every time I check your blog (which is more than you know), just in case you might have said who the winner is and it's not me.

Ken said...

I'm just really amused to see that people are talking to each other in the comment section of one of my blog posts.

Anon--so sorry for the weight. It's going to be a few days still. Still double-checking stuff.. sorry!

Carolina said...

This Scholarship contest have made me realize that no matter what happens in our lives we can't stop dreaming! THANKS! I wish all the "dreamers" the best of luck! and it is thankful for the opportunity.
p.s. I am getting addicted to your blog!!

Anonymous said...

I just want to know already, about who won!

Anonymous said...

when will the winner selction be posted?

Ken said...

Carolina--that's great!

Kicking the tyre--I thought about offering readers a chance to vote, but I didn't want people's dreams to be subject to comparison and criticism. For future awards, though, I think I'd like to make the selection process more interactive, if just to encourage more donors.

Those do sounds like some awfully impressive adventures... and I understand how a road trip or a 1st-world backpacking adventure may not seem so adventurous, But to a college kid who's been locked in schools for his/her whole life, these things can be very daring. I should know--I used to think of a drive to Alaska as if it were a voyage to another planet.

Anons--sorry for the delay. I really didn't want to wait this long to announce a winner.. I've just been sending lots emails/ doing lots of double-checking. It'll be soon. Very soon.

Anonymous said...

So if someone hasn't gotten an email yet, then they probably didn't get the scholarship?

HB said...

I'm so excited to read the winning essay! I can't count how many times I check the blog everyday to see if it has been posted!

Anonymous said...

Must. Read. Winning. Essay. 0_o

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind me asking, what kind of things are you double checking?

Anonymous said...

I thought this scholarship was realy awesome, until i realised it disqualified people for wanting to "tour" some country in someway. Well, that is what a lot of people dream of, and that is like saying their dreams are not good enough. They probably should have mentioned that BEFORE so many students took the time out of their busy schedules just to entertain them.

Ken said...

Anon--yesterday I sent email notifications out to everyone who didn't get the award. In the last couple weeks, we were emailing a couple people who we thought would be good winners.

HB--It's taken a lot longer than I thought it would. Thanks for your patience.

Anon--We were double checking just basic stuff like the details of their plan. And of course making sure that our money goes to someone who's going to use it.

Kicking--Sounds more daring than "foolhardy." I'd love to get out of North America soon and see how far I can get on a little money, as you've done. Funny how your travels have made you rich and mine have made me flat broke...

Anon--We have nothing against touring a country. Nothing against that at all. But when you have to choose one out of 373, you have to make the criteria tougher. There's nothing wrong with touring London, Paris, and Rome--but we didn't want to support a trip that's been done a trillion times before. Again, we have nothing against that sort of trip, but we had to make a decision. (And we would have made this more explicit in the requirements, but I figured I'd get just 20 applicants for this award, not 15x that amount.)

Ken said...

Kicking the Tyre--I got a notification email with some of your comments, but for some reason they're not showing up here or in the comment section of my "Writing Life" post... Just wanted to point that out to you so you don't think I'm deleting them.

Ken said...

kicking--some words of wisdom! I've thought about the teaching English method, but I'm also curious just how far I could make it as modern-day beggar, traveling with little, and begging for food along the way. I'm not committed to this idea, just curious about it for now. I think you also mentioned something about writers in one of your AWOL posts. I've only read Theroux's "Great Railway Bazaar," which I really liked. I also like McPhee's "Coming into the Country." Really good writing. Jonathan Raban isn't bad either. His "Old Glory"--about his voyage down the Mississippi--is considered a classic in some circles. Frankly I prefer "rougher" journeys and tales of daring feats. While motorboating the Mississippi is certainly not daring, he's a damn fine travel writer.