Shawn Helton (right) poses with Nick Daniels, the recipient of his DIY scholarship last year.
Shawn Helton is not a church. He is not a corporation, civic group or educational foundation. But he does award a $1000 scholarship to one deserving high school senior yearly, and now he's looking for candidates for the 2019/20 school year.
"I get Army compensation and I’ve got a job making great money," explained Helton to The Planet last week by telephone. "So I figure I should pay it forward." Helton, 34, works for a moving company after leaving the Army with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dade County Schools Superintendent Jan Harris confirmed Helton had bestowed $1000 and a used car to a graduating Dade County High School student last year. The year before, it was $1000 and a family vacation, and Helton awarded it to a North Sand Mountain High senior.
Helton says he picked the 2018 senior, Dakota Narron, because he wanted to help
Dakota with his ambitious plan to surprise his brother in the armed services with a summer trip. The 2019 winner, Nick Daniels, Helton chose because everybody just kept telling him what a great kid he was.
"I’m not looking for a sad story type deal, just who I feel could use it the most," said Helton.
This year, says Helton, anyone can nominate a high school senior in any state. Just send Helton a Facebook message or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the senior's name and a general idea of why the kid deserves the scholarship. Helton says usually seniors aren't even aware they're being considered. He makes his decision later in the school year, in April or May.
Helton believes that the last recipient of his do-it-yourself scholarship, Nick Daniels, is going to school at UTC, but he by no means requires his $1K to be used for college. "I don't care what they do with the money," he said. "As long as they graduate, that's all that matters."