Arlington Rotary Club Honored – by the White House
By Office of Communication
Posted on April 23, 2012, April 23, 2012

When Jim Fulgham and his fellow Rotary Club of Arlington members began promising every Webb Elementary student who graduated from high school $750 a semester for college expenses, Fulgham never thought such a lofty goal would land him where he was Friday.

At the White House.

The Rotary Club of Arlington was among the 10 Rotarian Clubs from across the country honored by President Obama for humanitarian efforts. The White House of Public Engagement invited Rotary to organize a "Rotary Day at the White House" as part of its White House community Leaders Briefing series and select 10 clubs to be showcased as Champions of Change.

Recognition went to clubs and individuals making a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans. The projects honored best exemplified the Rotary motto of "Service Above Self."

The Rotary Club of Arlington's Webb Elementary School Scholarship Program is certainly that. Started in the mid-1990s to aid a school where well over 90 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged, the program has distributed $483,000 in scholarship money to over 150 Webb alums.

"The scholarship program was made possible for those who don't necessarily have the means to go to college but mostly it was designed to motivate the students to stay in school," said Fulgham. "It's also to make the parents and guardians aware that their children could go to college. Many of them didn't go to college themselves and aren't quite sure how to address this issue. We expressed our belief that education is the answer to breaking the cycle."

While in Washington D.C., Fulgham and other Rotarians attended a National Press Club reception and met a number of White House staffers, including President Obama's chief of staff, Jack Lew - though no Obama.

Many of the discussions centered on what the current administration is doing with volunteer efforts and how Rotary clubs might partner with government agencies to do more locally.

Fulgham sat in on an interactive panel along with the other project honorees, which he found "quite helpful" because the discussions centered mainly on how non-profits can tag team with government to work on opportunities that are needed.

Fulgham said his group is eager to begin a new program to mentor at-risk kids in high school and will do it in conjunction with the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington Independent School District.

"The idea is to have relationships with them and share with them the many reasons to stay in school," Fulgham said. "We tell them that it allows you to achieve what you want to achieve, get a higher paying job, and be able to secure a better future for you and your family."

Just like the Webb Scholarship Program, it's all about hope.

"To give these kids hope for the future," Fulgham said. "Education and opportunity puts them in position to make the right choices in life."

Arlington Rotary Club

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