Don Roberts, instrumental music coordinator for the DeKalb County School District (DCSD), said each year students enrolled in the district’s band programs receive just as many college scholarships as do athletes.
Roberts said DeKalb music students graduating in 2012 have acquired an estimated $17 million in scholarships, and he hopes by the end of the year those numbers will reach last year’s $25 million in music scholarships from schools throughout the country.
For the second consecutive year DCSD has held a celebration to recognize students awarded music scholarships, and on April 19 recognized 150 DeKalb County students from schools around the district.
“We in DeKalb take a lot of pride in our music program and we have a great tradition of success,” Roberts said. “The band directors were talking and said, ‘We get as many scholarships as football and basketball,’ and we wanted to do the same thing they do with national signing day and bring the attention to the students in our programs.”
Roberts said he first began to realize the scale on which the district was receiving music scholarships when he was speaking with the head of a recent scholarship fair who told him that DeKalb was the highest–grossing county in Georgia for music scholarships.
“Once we put the numbers together collectively, we were amazed,” Roberts said.
Many students who received scholarships were offered multiple scholarships, in some cases worth more than $100,000, he said. Scholarship totals for Chamblee Charter High School are approximately $1.2 million. Southwest DeKalb High School also comes in at approximately $1.2 million, with students receiving offers from colleges such as Tennessee State University, University of Alabama and Jackson State University.
Roberts said he hasn’t heard of any other district in the state, or nationwide, holding scholarship “signing” days to recognize students’ achievements outside of the sports arenas.
“It educates the parents and the students that there are other options beyond athletics—even students who aren’t able to get academic scholarships but are hard workers—it shows them that band and music is an option,” Roberts said.
Stephenson High School held a celebration to recognize its students’ academic scholarship achievements April 18.
Lolita Baker, a guidance counselor at Stephenson High School, said last year the school had 27 students sign athletic scholarships. However, this year Baker said 64 students received academic scholarships, nearly double the number received by students involved in athletics last year.
“We have students who don’t participate in sports and feel like they haven’t gotten the same recognition for their accomplishments that students who play sports have,” Baker said.
The idea for the academic signing day was developed by Principal Brian Bowden and student Jamari Jordan. Baker said at first students were a little shy about being recognized for their academic achievements.
“Their personalities are different, which is why a lot of them came up in groups to be recognized,” Baker said. At the ceremony students came up to the microphone in groups and told attendees which colleges they would be attending in the fall, on scholarships.
Baker said the school plans to continue recognizing students for academic scholarships and Bowden said it will become a yearly event.
“We attract a lot of students and parents because we’ve been recognized as having athletes who are going to go to the next level—students who have attended Stephenson are now in NBA and NFL, but we wanted people in the community to know that isn’t all that’s happening at Stephenson,” Baker said.
Additionally, Baker said many students came up to her after the ceremony and said they didn’t realize how many students at Stephenson obtained academic scholarships.
“Some of the students in the audience said they would bring their grades up to be a part of it as well,” Baker said.