The LAFD Scholarship Fund (the “LAFDSF”) was established in 2007 and to date has been funded primarily by The Jean Perkins Foundation, a private non-profit institution that includes among its charitable interests aiding individuals that protect and serve the community as first responders.
To that end, the LAFD Scholarship Fund annually selects Merit Scholars from among applicants that are a) dependent children or step-children of active or fallen LAFD sworn employees and b) high school seniors or college freshmen who will be enrolled as full-time students in an accredited four-year college or university in the upcoming academic year. The Merit Scholar awards are cash grants of up to $30,000 ($7,500 per year while the student continues to be enrolled and making normal progress toward a college degree). Runners-up receive one-time grants of $5,000.
Merit Scholar Competition
There are approximately 3,500 LAFD employees. Each year, children of these employees who are high school seniors and college freshman are eligible to apply for the LAFDSF Merit Scholar Competition. Since 2007, the LAFDSF receives completed Merit Scholar Applications from approximately 45 qualified applicants each year. When the Applications are complete, and the required accompanying documentation is available, the Selection Committee (the civilian members of the LAFDSF Board) reviews the material and ranks the candidates. Based on these reviews, a smaller list of Applicants is selected for personal interviews. After the interviews, the current year Merit Scholars are notified. Individuals who are interviewed but do not receive Merit Scholar Awards are designated as Runners-up and receive one-time grants. All these scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit. The single most important factor is academic achievement, but the Selection Committee also considers other relevant criteria, including personal character and extracurricular accomplishments. The Selection Committee does not consider the financial need of the Applicants, or whether they have qualified for other grants or scholarships. The Los Angeles Fire Department has no role in the selection of Merit Scholars.
Funding and Grant History
Since 2007 through 2020, the Jean Perkins Foundation has contributed over $2 million to the LAFDSF. During this same period, the LAFDSF has awarded 64 Merit Scholarships and 92 Runners-up Awards representing total grants of over $1.1 million. (See the attached list of past Merit Scholars and the schools that they have attended.) The dollars committed to this activity are, however, only a small part of the program. The most significant contribution of the fund’s activity is the ability to assist exceptional students to attend colleges that might otherwise be beyond their reach financially. Almost all of the families of the Applicants are solidly middle class with two, three or more children and heavily burdened by the rising costs of higher education, yet many are unable to qualify financially for scholarships predicated on financial need. In this way, the LAFDSF fills a substantial void. A Merit Scholar Award, while not large enough to pay for even one full term of a highly rated college, is often large enough to make a substantial difference in the quality of the college a Merit Scholar chooses to attend or perhaps eliminates the need for a part time job allowing the student to enroll in an additional or more intensive course of study, take up an extra-curricular activity or just study harder.
Since our inception, we have not needed to focus on external funding since we were the beneficiaries of the gifts of the Jean Perkins Foundation. This period has been essential for the LAFDSF to refine its processes and prove the validity of its charitable objectives. With this experimental period behind us, the Jean Perkins Foundation has pledged its continuing support, but has also encouraged us to explore ways in which we could diversify and expand our funding sources. Since 2018 board members have been working to secure donations, and have raised over $300,000.
Administrative Expense Structure
The LAFDSF has a very minimal expense structure. The Board of Directors and Officers are not compensated. The LAFDSF has no full time employees. It only has one part time employee paid on an hourly basis, who is responsible for promoting the program among the firefighters, coordinating with potential applicants, preparing Applicant files for the Selection Committee and handling routine correspondence and documentation with Applicants and grant selectees. Currently, we have no expenses allocated to fund solicitation or marketing.