By Kristi Carr
In light of today’s meager half-percent interest on a typical savings account, Civil Air Patrol made a particularly sound investment some years ago when it awarded three $2,000 scholarships to one of its members.
Lt. Col. Ronald Hanson parlayed those funds into multiple careers. In gratitude, he is funding a CAP scholarship he established a couple of years ago in addition to providing, in his will, another $1 million for future CAP scholarship use.
Hanson, who chairs CAP’s National Scholarship Committee as well as directing Cadet Programs for the Alabama Wing, is not alone in his estimation of CAP as a wise investment. Thanks to donors like him, over the last year CAP has nearly doubled its number of scholarship recipients, from 46 in 2016 to 90 in 2017, representing 36 of the 52 CAP wings.
Turning $6,000 into a lifetime of service
Besides helping to fund cadets at summer activities and encampments, CAP offers scholarships to help cover costs for learning to fly — either through attendance at a CAP flight academy or for instruction to advance toward a flight rating — and for pursuing higher education, whether in college or at a trade school.
Hanson used his scholarships for academics. An up-and-comer in CAP as a young man, he took command of a squadron at only age 21, later applying for a CAP scholarship to help him cover the costs of earning a Ph.D. in physics at Arizona State University.
Armed with that degree, he moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he worked for the U.S. Department of Defense. Staying in the Yellowhammer State, he then went on to pursue a medical degree at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, after which he set up practice in Gadsden.
His cardiology practice took him away from CAP, even though he maintained his membership throughout. When he left the medical field to work on yet another degree, this one in law, he realized just how much he owed to CAP and became actively involved again.
Hanson, who described himself as shy and introverted as a 14-year-old, credits CAP with teaching him discipline and giving him leadership skills.
“I attribute my success in life to what I learned in CAP,” he said. “I firmly believe that the cadet program helps to train our youth to be leaders in the future.“
Investing in the future
Cadet Lt. Col. Gracelyne Allred of the Pennsylvania Wing received a CAP flight scholarship last year and was awarded a CAP academic scholarship this year.
“The flight scholarship provided me with an amazing opportunity to actually become a pilot,” she said.
As for this year’s scholarship, she said, “I'm excited to be a first-year engineering student at Penn State University’s main campus this fall. I hope to one day work for Lockheed Martin or NASA!
“CAP has empowered me to pursue my education and brought me closer to my goal of becoming an aerospace engineer. Not only am I so thankful for the funds CAP provided for my flight training and higher education but for the leadership training and learning opportunities I experience through the cadet program.”
Senior Member Emilia Apodaca, a freshman at the University of New Mexico, is another recipient of a CAP scholarship, this one for academics. The New Mexico Wing member is working on a master’s degree in special education.
“The scholarship from CAP helped me to start paying off my tuition even as school began,” Apodaca said.
Paying it forward
The Dr. Ron Hanson Academic Scholarship will help two CAP members this year. They are among the fortunate 90 to receive a portion of approximately $180,000 in 2017 CAP scholarships, a total that represents about a threefold increase over 2016.
Of the scholarships awarded this year 35 percent were for academics, with the remaining 65 percent for flight training, though statistics over time indicate the usual breakdown is closer to 50-50. Scholarship awards typically total $1,000 and higher, with a median of about $2,000. Three of this year's academic scholarships, each valued at $1,000 were provided by USAA.
But even with the remarkable increases in scholarship funds and the number of CAP members served by them, need still far exceeds resources. This year brought 337 scholarship applicants, all with high credentials; a third had grade-point averages of 3.8 or higher with SAT scores averaging 1311 or ACT scores of 30 or above, putting them on a par with incoming classes at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“It’s important we tap into and encourage the talent we already have in our organization, and our push right now is to bring in new donors,” said Maj. James Fogal, CAP’s national chief of development. “Toward that end, we want to make it as easy as possible.”
Options exist to suit everyone — estate gifts, one-time gifts, memorial scholarships and designated gifts. And there are multiple ways to send payments — by credit card, check, in wills, charges by the month or other time increments. Funds for scholarships can even be designated for use by a specific squadron or wing, as long as that request is submitted in writing.
While CAP members, former and current, as well as CAP employees, are encouraged to consider donations to scholarships, Fogal noted corporations are also on CAP’s radar. In fact, this summer’s CAP national conference in San Antonio will feature several seminars on techniques for wings and squadrons to solicit donations in their local areas, and a webinar is in the works for Internet access anytime.
“It’s new contributions and increased funds from current donors that have really made the difference, allowing us to so substantially increase the number of scholarships this year,” Hanson said.
“I know what CAP has meant to me,” he added, “and I’m asking other CAP members to consider doing what I am by giving back to the future generations that will continue to make CAP proud, based on what they have already done and by what they will deliver down the line to CAP and to America.”
How To Apply For a CAP Flight or Academic Scholarship
Notice that scholarship applications are being accepted goes out Nov. 1, with applications due by the end of the year. Winners are notified the following April. Application procedures can be found online.
Applicants can designate a particular scholarship or, instead of a scholarship, ask for a recommendation to the Air Force Academy preparatory school, which could lead down the road to acceptance into the Academy.
Typical sections of the scholarship application include a resume, proof of grade point averages or SAT/ACT scores, a statement of how the applicant intends to use the scholarship funds, a letter of recommendation from a CAP member who knows the applicant and signed endorsements from both the candidate’s wing and squadron commanders.
After the application deadline, applicant data is processed and rated. From there, a panel of three from the National Scholarship Committee reviews the applications for the applicant’s service to CAP, career plans and how the applicant intends to apply the scholarship.
It should be noted that, while most of the scholarships are traditionally awarded to cadets, senior CAP members also are encouraged to apply.
How to donate to a CAP scholarship
If you are interested in achieving an outstanding rate of return, consider a donation to CAP scholarships. To set up a donation, go online or contact the Development Office at 877-227-9142, ext. 225.