Tonight at the Shoals Marriott Hotel and Spa, 16 local high school Student of the Year representatives will be honored during the eighth annual Shoals Scholar Dollars banquet.

The banquet is the culminating event of a year’s worth of fundraising with one goal in mind: Giving every student in the Shoals area who meets a basic set of criteria a chance to get a scholarship award to attend college. The program funds about 150 scholarships per year to Northwest-Shoals Community College.

Scholar Dollars must raise about $800,000 per year to fund the scholarship fund. That requires a lot of sweat equity by volunteers who believe that education is the underpinning for success in every endeavor our students will face in their adult lives.

Those efforts are having a tremendous impact on the lives of our students, according to a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) study released in February.

“The Shoals has generated a level of success in education that even locals may not be aware of,” the PARCA study stated. “The Shoals can claim a higher level of educational success from its K-12 schools than any other metropolitan area in the state of Alabama.”

Specifically, the percent of high school seniors in the Shoals area who are college and career ready is 82.7 percent! The Shoals MSA was the only one of the 13 metropolitan statistical areas in the state that finished above 80 percent. The next closest scores were Baldwin County and Huntsville at around 76 percent.

And 68 percent of Shoals MSA high school seniors are workforce ready, according to PARCA, which is also the best rate in the state.

In addition, the school systems in the Shoals also led the state in the percentage of high school seniors who scored at the silver level or above on the ACT WorkKeys assessment, a test of math and reading skills as they are used in a workplace setting.

Nearly three-fourths of Shoals MSA students (74 percent) earned workforce ready credentials in 2017. Scoring silver indicates a student has the skills required for 67 percent of jobs in ACT’s database.

And lastly, the 69.1 percent of high school graduates in the Shoals MSA who enroll in a two- or four-year college in the year following their graduation is virtually the same as the 69.2 percent of Huntsville MSA high school students.

Those statistics are proof positive that the Shoals Scholar Dollars program is working, and PARCA lauded the “exceptional generosity of the people of the Shoals” for their support of the program.

“This cooperative effort,” the study said of Shoals Scholar Dollars, “should be treasured and celebrated. Moreover, every effort should be made to ensure that it is sustainable.”

That’s a message that should be fresh on everyone’s minds as we celebrate this year’s Scholar Dollars Students of the Year representatives.

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