Reno South Rotary started the Achievement Beyond Obstacles (ABO) Program (formerly Most Improved Student) in 1996 to recognize students whose pathway to high school graduation was much more difficult than it was for most of us. These students had, or were in the process, of overcoming issues such as significant health problems, abuse, dysfunctional families, homelessness, even brushes with the law – all the while attempting to continue their coursework on the road to graduation. In the world of Scholarship Awards academic prowess normally triumphs. The noteworthy success of these students has been their ability to overcome obstacles life placed in their way. Our desire was to reach out to these particular students with an encouraging word and some financial assistance. We wanted to do what we could to encourage these ABO Students to continue their education.
In an effort to expand this program further, Reno South Rotary invited Reno Rotary (downtown), Rotary Club of Sparks, and Reno Central Rotary Club to join. With the inclusion of the three newest member clubs, the Achievement Beyond Obstacles program has been able to increase the amount of scholarship money given to these very deserving young men and women.
Initially our Achievement Beyond Obstacles Program worked with one male and one female student from each WCSD high school. These ABO Students and their families were invited to a Rotary luncheon where they were honored and each ABO Student presented his/her “story” to our Club. Every student was given $100. Five students were then selected to each receive $1,000 Scholarships to the college or vocational program of their choice. As the Program grew we worked with the students to help them establish a personal Savings Account.
In 2013 we added a mandatory 2-day Leadership Training weekend. The goal of this weekend is to instill confidence, develop the necessary social and personal skills, and nurture each student’s leadership capabilities so that they are ready to leave the past behind and prepared to take on the future!
In 2016 we added on-going mentoring to the programs’ list. We engage the Deans Future Scholars at the University Nevada, Reno to help us reach these kids in more impactful ways from personal issues to simply getting around a large University campus.
Currently we recognize approximately 40 students annually from all Washoe County High Schools, including several local private and Charter Schools. In 2019 all participating high school seniors received $100, and we awarded over $42,500 in college scholarships to 12 high school seniors and 14 ABO students continuing their college careers. Since 1996 our ABO Student Program has recognized more than 285 students and has awarded over $160,000 to over 110 students.