HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE -- With the goal of helping graduating seniors pursue a trade school or college education, as well as making a difference in their future communities, Southern Floor Company recently unveiled a new $1,000 "Community Matters" scholarship for Jessieville seniors.
Southern Floor Company owner Steve Murray will present the scholarship, for student-athletes and other team-oriented extracurricular activity participants, on Feb. 15 during Jessieville's Senior Night home basketball games.
He said it is designed to "recognize and reward a student who was part of any of Jessieville's varsity teams, is a varsity cheerleader, is a solid student, and has a commitment to their community."
"I think it's really important to encourage our students to be a part of their community and work for the better good," he said. "Kids need to know that's a good thing and matters."
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Eligible students must have a grade-point average of at least 3.2, and write and submit essays explaining what they have done for their community and why community is important. All students planning on attending college or university, community college, or trade school, are encouraged to enter.
Murray was a student-athlete himself in high school.
"I'm all about teamwork and camaraderie," he said. "And there's a lot that we learn in band and high school sports that is kind of transferable to living in a community. And a small community, especially, like Jessieville or Fountain Lake that has that community-minded quality -- if you can find that in an adolescent and have the ability for that person to go on and learn a trade, or learn at college -- those are going to be our leaders."
Murray said young people who are community-minded are more likely to be community-minded when they become adults and be the individuals who help create a better community. Murray's first career, of about 15 years, was working with at-risk youth, and young adults with a chemical or substance abuse issue.
"I have a passion for working with youth and working with young adults, and I think part of it is, it will help me feel that," he said. "Yes, I'm in this business now as a home remodeler,' but I'm still able to give back."
After deciding to become an entrepreneur, he said he sometimes has a feeling that there is a void, like he is not giving back to or participating in the community.
"I feel like it's ingrained in me," he said. "So what I wanted to do through Southern Floor Company -- through our business here -- is still create impact for our young adults and adolescents that are about to graduate. And I think being able to provide them with financial assistance as they leave high school and go to a college or trade school of their choosing, money's a big part of that. Nothing's really given to us anymore when it comes to like a higher education, so being able to help them ... a thousand dollars will help, at least, that first semester."
Murray believes this will give students a "jump start" into adulthood. The community aspect, he said, is why he lives where he does. At one time living in Little Rock, in a neighborhood where neighbors did not speak to one another, Hot Springs Village, he said is very different.
"Out here, it's everything," he said. "It's everybody talking to each other, working together to try to help keep these communities thriving and growing. And I hope that this scholarship allows for some of those students that have that community mindset, get to school and become a professional. And they will, obviously, give back to their communities one way or the other.
"Over the last few years, if anything, I think we've all seen the lines of division a little too much, so being community-minded first and foremost, I think, will help seniors, along with their higher education, whether that be a skill or a trade, or a four-year traditional schooling -- those are the leaders that we're going to need as we go into the next decade."
Referencing the famous Helen Keller quote, "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much," he said the scholarship is just a small thing they are doing, but that small thing can inspire others greatly throughout the community.