Sunday, April 28, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Michelle Sanders had already read the names of a couple dozen Las Vegas area high school seniors when she paused to let the audience know that “we’re down to two.”
So, Ainsley Barrow and the other finalist, a Green Valley High School student, stepped forward and tensely stood center stage while Sanders, the grant and scholarship director with the Rogers Foundation, touted their achievements and hobbies. She would soon announce the winner of a $100,000 scholarship.
The other name was called first, and now Barrow, 18, stood alone, nervously clapping: She wondered: Had the other finalist won?
But in an instant, confusion morphed into a smile, and Barrow closed her eyes momentarily, taking in the moment. On stage, now with a medal against her chest, Barrow’s eyes welled up. From the audience, so did her mother’s eyes.
Her $100,000 scholarship was part of â€‹a more than $2.2 million awarded by the Rogers Foundation Saturday afternoon to 26 local high school seniors during a luncheon ceremony at The Industrial Event Place.
About half a dozen students were handed checks to buy books and school supplies; 13 received four-year full-ride scholarships (worth about $140,000) to Kentucky Wesleyan College, an institution with ties to the Rogers family. The rest of the students received $20,000 and $40,000 grants.
The foundation is an philanthropic endeavor by the late Jim Rogers and his wife, Beverly Rogers.
Minutes after the event concluded, the Barrow family appeared incredulous, but humbled. The soon-to-be Palo Verde High School graduate said she didn’t expect to win. After all, she said, she was sure that many of the other students were well-qualified, too.
But having a funding source has made her shoulders feel lighter, Barrow said. She is heading to the University of Washington to study neuroscience with a focus on dementia before going to medical school, hopefully at Columbia University.
Tami Barrow said her daughter is “very deserving,” noting that she has the “biggest heart” and likes to give back.
“My goodness, this is such a huge gift,” Tami Barrow said, adding that she knows Ainsley will find success in whichever path she takes.
Tom Barrow described his daughter’s work ethic and maturity. Ainsley has prepared for college the past two years, he said. In part, this means the teenager has chosen studying over sleeping many nights.
The scholarship presentation on Saturday marked the program’s fourth year.
An emotional Beverly Rogers said she was impressed with the recipients, who were chosen out of hundreds of applicants. Not only will the scholarships help them go to college, but perhaps they are now able to enroll at the school of their dreams.
Rogers said she was amazed by the essays, the interviews, and the students’ philosophies. While trivial bickering seem to dominate popular discourse, especially in today’s political climate, the recipients offered their takes on problem solving, particularly in issues such as mental health, water, and the environment, Rogers said.
“It’s so heartening to hear these kids talk and their ideas and where they’ve been and where they want to go, what they want to do,” she said. “They’re serious and yet they know how to have fun.”
Rory Reid, president and COO of the foundation, said he wishes the interviews had been recorded and then released to the masses.
Among the students was a boy who carries a spoon as a conversation starter (he took it out when the presenter mentioned it), a girl with a mohawk who dyes her hair for fun, and a teen who wants to be in public service, and “why not” perhaps one day becoming the U.S. president, he said.
Then there was Barrow, the young woman who wants to help patients with memory loss, a condition that more prominently affects the older population.
“She’s just amazing,” her mother said, “an amazing young woman.”