RCLA Town Hall Scholarship Program

Now in its fifth year, the RCLA Town Hall Scholarship Program has provided 58 scholarships to deserving area high school students, as well as afforded nearly 450 students the opportunity to attend the lecture series, providing them a valuable life experience.

The Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series, in partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf Town Hall Scholarship Fund, awards $30,000 in college scholarships each year to deserving high school seniors from all Sarasota public and charter schools, including select private and Manatee County public schools. 

Two deserving seniors with remarkable academic and community service accomplishments are selected from each high school by their principals to enjoy the privilege of attending a Town Hall lecture and meeting the speaker as “RCLA Scholars.” Students are then invited to submit a 750-900 word essay sharing the impact each speaker’s words had on them and how it relates to their own life experiences. Up to 15 submissions, supported by an outstanding academic record, will be awarded a $2000 college scholarship.

Special Note:  Only students who have attended an RCLA Town Hall Lecture are eligible to apply for this scholarship.

2017 - 2018 RCLA Town Hall Scholarship

Create A New Application Here

Return to Your Application Here

[2017 - 2018 RCLA Town Hall Scholarship - Jan. 15, 2017 - Apr. 23, 2017]

Please contact Earl Young, Manager of Scholarships and Special Initiatives, at (941) 556-7150 or scholarships@cfsarasota.org, for any questions not answered within our website.

Essay Questions:

Vice President Dick Cheney

  1. One of the harshest criticisms endured by Vice President Cheney and the Bush Administration regarded their decision to go to war in Iraq. Some proponents of the war felt that the human rights violations suffered by Iraqis at the hands of Saddam Hussein and the threat of weapons of mass destruction justified the costs - human and financial - of going to war and unseating the dictator. Do you agree? Do you feel the role of the U.S. government is to serve as the protector of human rights and moral compass for the rest of the world, or do you feel war is an act that should only be pursued when U.S. citizens are in imminent danger? Discuss. 

  2. This last presidential election has gone down as one of the most interesting and controversial elections in modern U.S. history. President Trump's contentious remarks and behavior during his campaign led to many of his own party's leaders pulling their support and endorsement from the candidate. Vice President Cheney commented that he fully supported Trump's ticket and believes that members of a party should always back their candidate. Do you agree or disagree with his view? Discuss. 

  3. Vice President Cheney criticized the Obama administration on its weakness with Russian relations. He suggested that the United States needs to go back and reinvest our ties with NATO and force a stronger hand on Putin. Do you agree? Where do you see the future course of the U.S.-Russian relationships? What steps do you think the current administration should be taking moving forward? Discuss.

Geena Davis

  1. Women and girls make up 51% of the population of the United States, but female characters’ presence is severely underrepresented in the media and often times they are overwhelmingly “sidelined, hypersexualized or simply not there,” according to Geena Davis. Her Institute has been beginning to make headway into changing the landscape of media and programming to reflect a more accurate, gender balanced, diverse portrayal of society. However, many critics have stated that they believe the issues she is trying to change have already been addressed and fixed in the field. Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer.
  2. Another common criticism of those calling for gender- and race-balanced shows is that they ignore the harsh reality of Hollywood studios: that they are businesses, not activists. And, like most businesses, they follow proven ways to earn income. What steps do you believe the media, as well as our society, can take in order to ensure that women are fairly and accurately represented in the entertainment industry?  Explain your answer.
  3. Geena Davis’ passion for activism and her work in spreading the importance of equality sprouted from her own experiences in a very male-dominated industry where she felt she had missed out on opportunities because of her gender. Have you ever personally felt like you have missed out on an important opportunity or have been discriminated against on the basis of your gender, race, or age? In what ways did you try to overcome the situation and did it have an impact on the way in which you viewed the world? Explain your answer. 


Jared Cohen

  1. During his lecture, Jared Cohen touched a lot on the effect of technology on the current political climate as well as the growing threat of cyber warfare. How do you see cyber warfare changing the future? How can we prepare ourselves as a country to address these issues? Please explain your answers.
  2. More and more, people are splitting their time between the physical and digital world. What potential benefits do you see for a future where everyone is connected? What potential dangers do you envision? Use examples from the lecture along with your answers.
  3. During his lecture, Jared Cohen discussed how the digital age has overwhelmed people with information and also created a culture of insincere altruism. Cohen suggests that there is now an ease to altruism, however heightened awareness of issues does not generally always make a difference. How can we as a society make sure that people are doing more than just sharing and talking about issues? How can technology play a part in this change? Please explain your answers.

James Balog

  1.  For many, James Balog took something distant and far away like climate change and brought it close to home through his work. Blending art and science, his photography helped make the invisible visible and raise awareness for the issues he cared about. Is there an issue you or society faces that you feel is invisible? How can you go about enacting change and opening other people's eyes to the issue? Please explain your answers. 
  2. Although climate change has been a controversial topic politically, James Balog rejected those who view it as a partisan topic. Instead, he said climate change is simply an objective fact regardless of political party. He emphasized in his lecture that evidence is not a belief and often faith can trump facts. How can parties on both sides come to a compromise and address the issues of climate change? What are we as a society and a country gambling when it comes to climate change and how to address it? Please explain your answers. 
  3. When asked about what an individual can do to enact change, James Balog stated four points: choice matters; take one step, then another, then repeat; be optimistic; and use your voice. Have you ever utilized this advice in your own life during a tough time or used it to bring light to a cause or issue you care about? What can you do moving forward to incorporate this advice into your own life? Please explain your answers.

Former President Felipe Calderon

  1. While backstage, Former President Calderón stated that his lecture was going to be a defense of Mexico. How effective do you think his defense was? Do you agree with the statements he made during the lecture? What sort of relationship do you believe the United States should have with Mexico moving forward? Explain your answers and use examples from the lecture in your essay.
  2. Illegal immigration was one of the most controversial topics of the last presidential election. Former President Calderón stated in his lecture that more Mexicans are coming back to Mexico than those that are leaving for the United States. Do you believe this statement? What responsibilities do you believe Mexico should have regarding illegal immigration into the United States and do you think Mexico has done enough to address it? Explain your answers and use examples from the lecture in your essay.
  3. Backstage and during his lecture, Former President Calderón touched upon the idea of a more global and interconnected economy between countries. Do you think the United States should approach the idea of creating a more global economy, or do you think a more isolated approach is more beneficial to the United States?  Explain your answers and use examples from the lecture in your essay.



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