Each year ABO committee members contact counselors at each high school, including charter and private schools, asking that they nominate students for the ABO Program. Counselors are most familiar with students, their stories and, most importantly, their achievements. The maximum number of students selected for the Most Improved Student program is 36. Students sign a contract to attend a leadership training program and to attend an awards luncheon.

The Achievement Beyond Obstacles (ABO) Program, started by Reno South Rotary, and recently joined by the Rotary Club of Reno, Reno Central Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Sparks. It is an innovative scholarship program dedicated to students usually overlooked by other programs. Counselors from every high school in Washoe County—currently 20, including charter and private high schools—nominate one or more students for this program. These students have overcome major obstacles in their lives and will be continuing their education. These students usually do not qualify for other scholarships which are typically based upon grades or school participation.

Once nominated, students attend an intensive 18-hour weekend Leadership Academy designed to equip them with new skills to succeed in school and in life. In addition, they can attend a Financial Literacy Workshop, where Rotarians and staff at Truckee Meadows Community College help them complete complicated forms that are often a barrier to their obtaining additional assistance. They also learn about the actual costs of college and trade schools, and are given information about how to plan and budget. Babysitting and translation are also provided for family members who wish to participate.

In addition, the Achievement Beyond Obstacles Program has begun a Mentoring component, which utilizes the Dean’s Future Scholars program at the University of Nevada Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College. Activities in this portion of the ABO Program include meeting with successful college students and ABO alumni.

Students who complete the Leadership Weekend are invited to bring 2 guests to a luncheon in their honor, where they share their story and plans. Each student receives $100. Judges select 10-12 of these students for an additional interview.
Selected students receive from $500 to $3,500 scholarships. Thanks to our generous donors, we have increased the amount we have awarded over the last several years – from $20,000 in 2016 to over $40,000 in 2019. Over $20,000 a year is currently being awarded to continuing students, and this amount will continue to increase as our students not only stay in school and graduate, but go on to graduate school.

In addition, students can be assigned a mentor to provide additional assistance.