AU College Democrats run scholarship for student coronavirus relief

Scholarship money was provided by a national Democratic program

AU College Democrats run scholarship for student coronavirus relief

Students celebrate election results at the AU College Democrats midterm election watch party in SIS Founders Room on Tuesday night. 

On April 13, the AU College Democrats closed their applications for a scholarship meant to aid students during the coronavirus pandemic.  A $1,000 scholarship was awarded on a need basis, as well as “additional funds of varying amounts” given to other students who applied.

The scholarship application was originally posted on the AU College Democrats Facebook page on March 27 to reward and encourage work in Democratic politics and to provide support for necessities, like groceries or travel expenses. The scholarship was for any student involved in the organization, regardless of membership status.

“Globally, we are navigating unprecedented times through this pandemic,” the post read. “This widespread devastation is creating a strain on the health and economic well-being of people throughout the world.”

Rhett Martino, former AU Dems campaigns director and recently elected president of the organization, came up with the idea for the scholarship after recently awarded grant money could no longer be used for canvassing trips during the spring semester. 

“It dawned on us that the situation right now is so hard and trying that we decided the right use of this money was to open it up to all of our members,” Martino said. “Anyone associated with AU Dems could apply, as long as they agree to volunteer with us in the fall.”

The application, which only included four short answer questions, was intentionally kept short.

Julia Larkin, former AU Dems president who oversaw the scholarship, said that besides the $1,000 scholarship, two $500 scholarships and five $200 scholarships were given to selected applicants. 

“We took two days to read everything through,” Larkin said. “It was hard because all the applicants needed some amount of money, and in a time like this you want to give everyone an equal amount of support.”

According to Martino, the decision to pick which students were awarded the money was done anonymously. Every student that applied was associated with a unique identification letter so their name was not attached to their application when it was reviewed. 

The money for the scholarship was given to AU Dems by Blue Future, a national program that focuses on organizing young people for progressive electoral campaigns. The organization was co-founded by AU alumus and former AU College Democrats President Nick Guthman.

“Every semester we apply to receive some money from Blue Future for campaign-related things,” Larkin said, “this semester was the first time we’ve been awarded the full amount.”

Larkin explained that many Democratic organizations that “help college dems elect other dems,” as well as other political organizations, want to see students succeed because they understand the importance that young people play in elections.

“We recognize how important it is that we provide our community support, and we hope to continue doing so,” Martino said. “We recognize how hard it is for our applicants to apply for a peer-reviewed scholarship; it’s important that we recognize them for putting that faith in us.”

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