Our Voice: HAAP and AAAS awards motivate, reward students

Pride abounds in the community this time of year.

It is graduation season.

And with that rite of passage comes a sense of accomplishment in achieving one of life's great milestones.

Graduation ceremonies celebrate students of all ages, but high school and college graduations are the ones that fulfill long-term goals.

In our region, we have amazing support networks to help high school graduates move to the next level.

That support was on display recently at two significant ceremonies in the Tri-Cities: the Hispanic Academic Achievers Program and the Afro-Americans for an Academic Society.

At the HAAP event, twenty-six students were recognized and $60,000 in scholarships were provided, including a $10,000 award that was the final financial boost needed to send an 18-year-old Pasco man to the University of Washington.

HAAP has been around since 1990 and was established to motivate Hispanic students to academic success in the Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, North Franklin, Finley and Columbia school districts.

Some private schools also participate.

Many of the students who received HAAP scholarships will be the first in their families to attend college or, in some instances, graduate from high school.

One student arrived in the United States just a few short years ago and did not understand English. Her hard work resulted in a 3.98 GPA and a $3,000 scholarship.

The AAAS honored 11 students with scholarship awards. Those scholarships are provided to black students who have a proven record of academic success from the fourth-grade through high school.

The program began back in 1976 in Pasco and expanded to include schools in Kennewick, Richland, Benton City and Prosser about 20 years later.

Both organizations are largely donation driven and the scholarships supported by both individuals and businesses.

Many a parents have worked long and hard to see their child succeed, but the skyrocketing cost of a college education has put that dream out of financial reach for many.

Scholarships help fill the gaps and, in some cases, make higher education possible.

And while AAAS and HAAP have a good foundation of support, both could use more donations for scholarships.

The more dollars they have, the more lives they will be able to change.