A local physician has announced a new opportunity available to high school juniors in the Arkansas River Valley — the Robins Scholarship Foundation.
Founded by New Orleans native and UAMS emergency medicine fellow Dr. Larry Robins, this scholarship is unique because along with an Apple 13-inch Model MacBook Pro and a one-time $2,000 scholarship toward a chosen semester of college/vocational school, it also awards winners with encouragement through mentorship by Dr. Robins and other successful figures throughout their senior year.
“I consider the award of this scholarship a small and temporary contribution. Mentoring, encouraging, and nourishing these prospective scholars will cultivate the rest of their lives,” Robins writes on the foundation’s website.
The model for this scholarship is based off of one that Robins received for his own education, the Linda Lorelle Scholarship, which is described on its website as a scholarship that was designed to “target high school juniors as scholarship applicants so the Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund would have the recipients’ full senior year in high school to work with them and provide college preparedness and life skills training — everything from the college selection and application process to obtaining additional financial aid to etiquette and social skills training.”
One other important aspect of the Linda Lorelle Scholarship that influenced the Robins Scholarship Foundation is the philosophy of giving all students, regardless of their background, the opportunity to obtain an education through providing support and guidance to students who need it most and showing them that they can change the trajectory of their lives and impact future generations. This is a concept that hits home with Robins in particular, who was the first in his family to graduate high school and to attend college.
He recalls the lack of resources within his own high school and how he even used his mom’s old textbooks.
“I remember there was a pharmacist that would come to my fifth grade class just to do science experiments because my school couldn’t afford to do those on their own,” Robins said. “Small things like that helped a lot in my journey, in graduating high school, and in getting into the sciences.”
However, those small things eventually added up.
“I think what made the difference, when I was growing up in New Orleans, despite poor funding for the school system, despite growing up in a terrible neighborhood, there were always people that were trying to encourage us to do better, to succeed,” Robins said.
After a mission trip to Haiti as a freshman in college helped him realize his desire to pursue medicine, Robins worked his way through medical school and later began his residency in Fort Smith, where he was inspired by the pediatric population there.
“As a physician, most patients are very vulnerable with you. They’ll answer all your questions because you’re their doctor,” Robins said. “A lot of my patients had revealed a lot of things to me and that kind of is part of the reason why I started this scholarship.”
Robins soon realized that many of his younger patients didn’t have answers for what they wanted to be when they grow up or what their plans for after high school were.
“The north side of town in Fort Smith is, I want to say it is our area in which there are socioeconomic challenges. It’s more present on the north side than the south side, for sure. A very diverse population as well,” Robins said. “You can notice a kid very quickly who just needs an extra push or doesn’t believe in themselves, or someone who comes from a family who probably doesn’t value education.”
It was during his sophomore year of high school, the age of many of his young patients, that Robins’ learned that he didn’t have a college savings fund. After panicking and quickly applying for scholarships, he was able to earn more than $150,000 in funds for college. Part of his vision for the Robins Scholarship Foundation is to encourage award winners to seek out and apply for other available scholarships as well.
Though Robins works as a medical professional, the scholarship is open to students who plan to pursue any field of study.
“As a fellow, I have a bit more time to do things that I want to do, so I decided to just go for it and stop delaying it and go ahead and push and sacrifice and make this happen,” Robins said. “I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time. It’s another reason I got into medicine. I not only wanted to be a physician in the community, but I also wanted to be involved in whatever community I’m a part of. So, this is my way of getting involved and making an impact.”
Robins is hopeful about the outcome of the scholarship’s first year.
“I think in the end, I feel as if it’s going to pay off, as I really hope to be able to impact at least one life here in Fort Smith.”
Applications are open now and can be found, along with instructions, at https://www.robinsfoundation.org/prospective-scholars. To be considered by the due date, applications must be postmarked by Nov 16, 2020.