The Better Business Bureau’s scholarship program provides a unique way for the organization to recognize excellence, promote its goal of ethical business practices and get an idea of what future consumers and entrepreneurs think of and expect from the business community.
“I think it really advances our mission to build trust in the marketplace for consumers,” says Shaila Kapur, chair of the BBB of Delaware, which offers the Student Ethics Scholarship. “Some of our most important consumers are in school or will be business owners, so I think reaching out to that population to see how they think about us helps us make the right kinds of decisions and initiatives that appeal to all our consumers, not just those who have businesses.”
Business leaders view the program as an investment in the workforce of the future. “We look for people who have really good problem-solving skills,” says Lisa Detwiler, chief operating officer at SSD Technology, co-sponsor of this year’s award. “And the only way you get those problem-solving skills is to have some type of experience in the field or through higher education.”
Larry Giacchino, president of Carman Auto Group, which is also sponsoring the award, shares her view. “We have sales executives that really need to read a lot on product information and sales effectiveness and we prefer college-educated people.”
Now in its fourth year, the competition draws an array of well-qualified applicants. But what sets winners apart is their ability to articulate their views in terms of personal experience, says Kapur.
Marco DiGabriele, one of two winners in 2012, credits his father with being a good role model for ethical behavior. “He taught me that business ethics does not always refer to being fair when dealing with a customer,” he writes in his essay, “but also being fair when dealing with the company you work for.”
Alana Whitmarsh, the other scholarship winner, says the competition really got her thinking about the need for big business to balance the profit motive with its responsibility toward the consumer and the planet. “It really got the ideas flowing,” she says.
In addition to their academic accomplishments, both DiGabriele, 18, and Whitmarsh, 19, participated in extracurricular activities and community service.
Whitmarsh excelled at track at Padua Academy, was a Blue-Gold Ambassador as well as a member of Padua’s Students in Action team that won a Jefferson Award in 2011.
DiGabriele was captain of his soccer team at Concord High School, volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House and helped clean his parish church.
Both recipients are pursuing majors in business administration—DiGabriele at the University of Delaware, Whitmarsh at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Both are grateful for their awards, saying they’ve been extremely helpful in defraying the cost of their education.
Whitmarsh says the BBB award, along with her track scholarship, has made it possible for her to attend St. Joseph’s, her first choice. DiGabriele, also the recipient of multiple scholarships, is glad that the application process is over so he can concentrate on his studies.
Kapur says hearing the winners speak has become the highlight of the BBB’s annual dinner in April. “They’re so articulate, they really bowl us over,” she says.
The BBB award is a merit-based scholarship open to college-bound seniors residing in Delaware. They must be nominated by a BBB-accredited business and have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants must complete an application form; write an essay of 500 words or less; submit a current transcript and letters of recommendation. There is no cost to apply.
Winners are selected by committee and receive an award of $2,500. Winners are announced at the BBB’s annual dinner in April.