It takes a lot of money to send a kid to college these days.
In fact, the College Board recently reported that for the 2013-2014 academic year the cost of one year at a moderately-priced in-state public college was $22,826, and annual private college tuition averaged $44,750.
For those college-bound students seeking financial aid, the need translates to student loans, grants and scholarships, and on Marco Island, scholarships from local charitable organizations are shining examples of how people in a community can lend a hand to help college dreams come true.
So, how many of these helping hands does it take to send a kid to college? Just ask Desiree Buhelos and Jada Shigley, the co-chairs of Souper Bowl Marco, an annual fundraising event for the Leadership Marco Scholarship Fund. Sponsored by the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and organized by its Education Committee, this event sells one-of-a-kind soup bowls hand painted by local students and fills them with an amazing array of soups from Marco area restaurants.
“Our community is inspiring future leaders, rewarding students for community involvement, strong academic performance, volunteering and working hard to achieve their goals,” explains Shigley, who works as director of reservations for the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort. “Our local students deserve an opportunity as much as anyone else, and when they work as hard as these kids do, it should be rewarded.”
In its third year, Souper Bowl Marco raised more than to $26,000 over the first two events through the sale of more than 1,800 soup bowls. Seven scholarships were awarded last year. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31 — the eve of the National Football League’s Super Bowl Game — from 11 AM-1 PM at Mackle Park. A bowl pre-sale event only for parents ofstudents who created a bowl is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 30.
Still, the hand count for each Souper Bowl Marco event always begins with the two hands of Buhelos’ mother — Vina Marie Jansen — who was a ceramics teacher and had her own shop. When she passed away five years ago, Buhelos set out to find a meaningful way to remember her mother. “I didn’t want to plant a tree or anything like that,” she says. “I really wanted to make a change in somehow and way.”
After attending similar events in Illinois and Naples, Buhelos brought the idea to the chamber’s 19-member board of directors and its six-member Education Board, and Souper Bowl Marco was born. That is an additional 52 hands.
For the 2015 Souper Bowl Marco, more than 1,000 bowls were painted and glazed by roughly 700 students from Tommie Barfield Elementary, Marco Island Charter Middle School, Marco Island Academy, Lely High School and the city of Marco Island’s Parks and Recreation Department summer camp program. Add in about 25 teachers, summer camp counselors and city employees, and that is 1,450 more hands.
Next, a group of Leadership Marco alumni and Clay Guild volunteers from the Marco Island Center for the Arts work for months cleaning and preparing the bowls to be fired by Barney Halashack, Clay Guild bowl master, in batches. This year, Shigley, her son and grandmother attended one of the glazing sessions at the Clay Guild. “It was so amazing to see the process and all that is involved,” she recounts. “Each box of bowls has to be carefully unpacked by volunteers and then each bowl individually inspected and cleaned.”
This process takes between 20-40 more hands.
Then there are the local artists who specially design and decoratebowls that will be auctioned off during the event, as well as the 10 restaurants and 15 event sponsors. The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort is the Souper Bowl’s title sponsor for 2015. Other sponsors include Marco Island Center for the Arts, the city of Marco Island Parks and Recreation Department, Gem Remotes, CJ’s on the Bay, Marco Island Water Sports, Rick’s Island Salon, Prout’s Plumbing, Patrick Neale & Associates, The Boathouse Motel, Kiwanis Foundation, Chef Laura Owen, Marco Island Clothing Company, Poling Medical Center and BMO Harris Bank.
Finally, event volunteers, parents and community members lend their hands the day of the event — in some cases, too many to count. “From the sponsors to the schools to the students and the parents that come out as well as our restaurants and their staff, not to mention the volunteers and then the people that come to enjoy the bowls and the soup, that is what makes this event so successful. It’s really an event that has been embraced by the entire community, and the money stays in the community benefitting local students,” notes Shigley.
The work is not completed, though, until the scholarships are awarded. The chamber’s Education Committee members review the applications, read the essays, and interview and evaluate candidates based on predetermined criteria, including academics, community involvement and leadership skills. The final scholarships are awarded at a chamber After 5 Event in May at CJ’s on the Bay.
In the end, the tally of hands involved in Souper Bowl Marco and the scholarships its creates tips the scales at about 2,500 people, including an estimate of those in the community who attend the event. That is a lot of people and community support for college education.
For more information about Souper Bowl Marco, contact the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce at 239-394-7549.