Most scholarship applications follow a familiar line of questions. Queries like, “What are your career goals?” or “How has your high school experience prepared you for college?”

The FCFP Regional Scholarship, by contrast, centers around a single, thought-provoking prompt on a cultural issue. The first-ever application (2021–22) asked students:

“What is your perception of race, and what can be done to build a more just and equitable community?”

No simple question to answer. Yet John Thomas, a Danville Area High School senior, offered an especially mature and nuanced response. In his essay, he suggested that addressing racism is both political and personal.

“I talked about getting involved with politics to elect people who represent certain values,” says John, “as well as diversifying our own lives, whether that’s befriending people of different backgrounds or being willing to point out racist behavior.”

John’s perspective captured the review committee, and he became the inaugural recipient of the scholarship, which grants students $4,000 to use for higher education.

John Thomas, recipient of the FCFP Regional Scholarship

The FCFP Regional Scholarship is the first of its kind from the foundation. Whereas other scholarships are directed by the donor (with criteria related to location, merit, or area of study), the Regional Scholarship is directed by the FCFP staff. The opportunity is open to all students in the five-county service area, and the decision hinges on the essay.

The FCFP leadership team had dreamt of launching this opportunity for years—one focused on inclusion, not merit. In 2021, surplus money in the foundation’s operating fund allowed them to finally make it happen.

This scholarship is driven by access. You don’t need anything other than a pen and paper to apply. And asking harder questions gives us a pulse on what’s happening with this generation.

Betty Gilmour, Director of Grantmaking

The topic of addressing racism aligns with the foundation’s larger First Focus campaign—a series of coordinated efforts that drive change around a timely issue. The question for 2023 centers on discrimination. More than 70 students have submitted applications.

John is putting his scholarship towards tuition at Scranton University, where he’s pursuing pre-med. “I wasn’t expecting to get the award,” he says, “and I was really excited when I found out.”

After earning his degree, he hopes to return to the area and reinvest his skills in the community. Which is precisely why FCFP exists: to empower local people to fuel local growth using local funds.

The FCFP Regional Scholarship is open to all students in Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union Counties. The deadline for submissions falls in early April.