MIDLOTHIAN — With graduation around the corner, many students are applying for college and searching for scholarship opportunities across the country.
Locally, the Midlothian Masonic Scholarship Foundation is helping to ease the burden of student loans and give 10 bright students an optimistic start.
“It’s the first round of scholarships for most of the students. So this is a chance for 10 kids to dip their foot in the pool and win a scholarship,” expressed Duke Burge, Vice President of Midlothian Masonic Scholarship Foundation, about the awards ceremony on March 23.
Each since its start in 2007, the annual scholarship awards banquet awards a select group of high school students solely from Midlothian ISD. Though the Foundation is just a decade old, the Mason’s tradition of giving flips back through the pages of history books since the late 1800s.
“Masons in Texas founded the public school system,” Burge stated. “The original Masons in the Republic of Texas felt that public education was crucial and they had it written into the [Texas] Constitution that every child would get a free public education. So you run that forward, and what you find is one of the primary charities that Masons have are scholarships."
According to Texas State Historical Association, most of the money and effort of the Texas Masonry was directed to education, especially in those years before the establishment of a viable public system before 1900.
The Grand Lodge established an education fund in 1847 and appointed a superintendent of education the following year. Between 1850 and 1873, the legislature chartered 17 Masonic-sponsored schools. Texas Masons also helped establish more than 100 other unchartered schools.
Broadening their scope of philanthropic efforts, the Masons continued with this charitable movement, investing into young lives within their communities.
“We’ve been doing that for years, and several years ago we decided to change it up a little bit, and we formed a 501.(c)3 and started trying to grow the foundation with a goal towards becoming more than self-sustaining,” Burge explained.
Created to raise funds under the umbrella of a nonprofit entity, the foundation allows Masons an organized, public donation outlet, as well as, gives high school seniors a financial break for college. Dependent on the Foundation’s fundraising and investment actives, the number of scholarships available each year is based purely on donations.
Although Midlothian’s Masonic Board of Directors directs the charity, the Foundation does not require any relation or affiliation to Masonry for either benefactors or recipients, expanding its range of scholarships to the whole community.
“Right now we have right at $100,000 in the Foundation, and we give between 10 and 20 scholarships a year,” Burge affirmed the impressive progress of the ten-year-old program.
Beginning the scholarship process in early January, the nonprofit filed through many applicants, selecting individuals who stood out amongst the rest. With award amounts starting at $500 and increasing to sums as large as $4,000, the Foundation has awarded over $100,000 in scholarships since its inception.
Awarding students with academic success and character honors, the Foundation presented their top-ten students with a banquet and awards ceremony held at the lodge and joined by their families.
As claps and cheers circulated about the room, students were encouraged to pursue their academic dreams.
“This is one of our biggest things we do during the year, and we enjoy it the most,” Burge happily acknowledged.
As for the ensuing goals of the Foundation’s giving, Burge expresses the hope of providing $20,000 scholarships to students.
“We have goals of doing some great stuff,” Burge finished with a smile.
To connect with the Midlothian Masonic Scholarship Foundation, visit msftx.org or midlothianlodge.org.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer