At last, a government program that might actually do some real good.
The program I’m referring to is the Union County Community Scholarship Program established by Union County, the Union County School District, USC Union, and Spartanburg Community College.
Normally when that many governing bodies come together to create a new program the taxpayer is well-advised to keep their hands on their wallets or pocketbooks and, if at all possible, run for the nearest exit.
The Union County Community Scholarship Program is one of those rarities in government, a program that actually makes sense because it is an investment in the power of knowledge.
Knowledge — and the ability to put it to practical use — has always been power. Those who possess the knowledge needed to survive and flourish and the ability to put it to use to achieve those goals have survived and flourished. Those who did not possess that knowledge and that ability did not, in the long run, flourish or even survive. Worse yet, they could and often did become a drain on their society threatening its ability to survive and flourish.
This has been true from the beginning of the human race when our earliest ancestors dramatically increased their chances of survival when they gained the knowledge of how to make fire. They in turn helped ensure the survival of their offspring by teaching them how to make fire, making an investment that ensured the survival of the human race and set it on the path to becoming the dominant species on this planet.
In the 21st century knowledge and the ability to apply it effectively is still power, still the key to the success of both individuals and their community. That’s the truth that underlies the Union County Community Scholarship program which seeks to ensure that the next generation of this county is as full empowered as possible.
The scholarship is designed to enable high school seniors to continue their education after graduation. It will enable those seniors to attend USC Union or Spartanburg Community College in Union County and get their first two years of post-secondary education for free.
Why do this? Why is the county, the school district, USC Union, and SCC doing this?
They are doing it because they know, even if they didn’t say it in so many words, that knowledge is power and the more individuals have of it and the more a community has such empowered individuals the better off everyone is.
On Tuesday, representatives of those agencies addressed the seniors at Union County High School. Among those speaking was Union County Supervisor Frank Hart who pointed out that persons who continue their education after high school can make anywhere from $1 million-$3 million more in their lifetime than those who don’t.
Let’s face it, money is power and the more money you have the more power you have and an extra $3 million in your pocket is a lot of extra power. The key to getting that power, especially in today’s increasingly knowledge-driven economy, is gaining the power of knowledge and how to apply that power so as to maximize the benefits you can derive from it.
Furthermore, such an investment not only pays off for the individual recipient of that investment, but also for the community that makes it. Hart told the students that while Union County has many resources, they are the county’s greatest resource because they are the future of the county. He also told the students that they all have untapped potential and the county, school district, USC Union, and SCC want to put that potential to work for each student and for the county as a whole.
In others words, the investment being made in the students by those organizations through the scholarship program is just that, an investment, and as with all investments, the investors are looking for their investment to yield a profit. That profit is a generation of young men and women empowered by the acquisition of a post-secondary education that will enhance their knowledge and the power that comes with knowledge.
A generation so empowered means a community so empowered and a community so empowered will be attractive to industries looking to set up shop in communities that have invested in and developed their greatest resource and unlocking its potential.
To a degree this has already happened as the presence of companies like Timken, Gestamp, Gonvauto, and ESAB demonstrate. As impressive as that roster is, it is only a hint of what could be to come for this county if we invest in our most precious resource, our young people.
A community that makes that kind of investment will be far more successful than a community that doesn’t. That’s because we could have all roads, utilities, spec buildings, and other infrastructure required by industry, but if we do not have the human infrastructure, a knowledge-empowered workforce and educational and financial infrastructure to support it then we will not have kind of success we desire and need.
The Union County Community Scholarship Program is the kind of investment we must make, an investment in people, especially young people just getting started in life. It is the kind of investment the people of this county should wholeheartedly support. The kind of investment the Class of 2016 — at Union County High School, Union Christian Day School, Union County Adult Education, and the Union County Home School Program — should take an advantage of and gain themselves $3 million worth of empowerment and empower the future of the community investing in them.
Charles Warner is a staff writer for The Union Daily Times and can be reached at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.