Miramonte Students and Career Counselor Create Scholarship Website
By BILL O’BRIAN
There are goals, and then there are big goals. Judging by what Samantha Stuber has accomplished in just six months as the full-time college and career counselor at Miramonte High School, it is clear she has made a solid start toward reaching a very big goal.
She and her students have created a website called Scholars.Shop where sponsors can easily create scholarships and students can apply for them. She says, “As the cost of education keeps rising, it’s becoming increasingly unattainable for students everywhere.” Furthermore, she adds, normal scholarships are hard to make and advertise for sponsors, and scholarships are hard to find for students. “We are solving this problem by creating a centralized place for both sponsors and students to give and get scholarships.”
The second-year counselor started working on her website in October of 2017, and she and the students launched the site April 1 of this year. Stuber says she believes “it is important to make a vision come to life.” In this case, she taught herself how to code so she could create the website. She learned online at a free platform called CodeAcademy.com where she spent about three months learning the process. Stuber notes, “I worked at home after school at least 15 hours a week on this,” noting that about 180 hours of total learning over three months with this “is in the ballpark.” She adds, “I am super passionate about technology helping students so they can use these skills to improve others’ lives.”
How does Scholars.Shop work? Sponsors create their scholarship and application on Scholars.Shop, which can be done in as little as 10 minutes. Sponsors then pay a four percent fee to post their scholarship. This fee allows the site to maintain and promote scholarships. Students create an account on the site and make a student profile, which contains information about the student’s current education, future educational goals, financials, etc.
Students can then use Scholars.Shop to search by location, key words or academic criteria such as GPA or test scores to find scholarships. Students apply for all scholarships through Scholars.Shop which allows sponsors to see student answers to their application questions as well as student profiles. Once the sponsor-determined application deadline passes, sponsors can then choose a student for an award. Sponsors can easily financially award students by sending money directly to the student or to the student’s institution through Scholars.Shop.
Stuber says the idea for her site originated after working with multiple students from low income families to sift through scholarship websites. In addition to working at Miramonte, she donates her skills at a high school in Oakland. She says, “After months of going through these sites, both my students and I were frustrated from being scammed, never hearing back from scholarship offers and continuously filling out the same profile information over and over again. The private scholarship process was clearly failing multiple users, and I finally came to a point where I knew that private scholarships could be created and facilitated better to help everyone.”
Five weeks after the launch, the site offers 11 scholarships, some individual, some collective, and collects applications for the local Rotary Club scholarships. Rotary offers its own scholarships, but as a result of her coordination with them, the organization can collect applications for its scholarships from students using Scholars.Shop. She has also done some outreach to local real estate businesses.
Asked if it was an uphill battle to ask people to fund Miramonte scholarships, she agreed that many Orinda students do not need them. She maintains, however, that some do, some who are “desperately trying to find a way to afford college next year.” In addition she added, “I know a few Miramonte students who received scholarships for their first year, but now that they are in college don’t know how they will pay for their second year since the scholarships were not renewable.”
She says some of the big scholarship sites send their student information to third parties, and some scams occur. “Scholars.Shop,” she says, “is an all in one place site anyone can go and create a scholarship for an individual or an organization, business or memorial scholarship.” Furthermore, Scholars.Shop “connects donors to individual students, so the donors know who get the scholarships.”
Stuber graduated from California State University at Fullerton majoring in Business/Entrepreneurship with a minor in English. She earned her College and Career Counselor certificate at the University of California, Berkeley, Extension School. She says, “My mission is to reduce all financial barriers to education. I think it is important to have big goals.”
A popular motto is “Think globally; act locally.” For Orinda residents, this new scholarship website is an opportunity to put that idea to work. All an interested person has to do is type Scholars.Shop in the taskbar on their computer to check