Every year, our Extraordinary Scholarship program awards $1,000 scholarships to five high school students in Texas, helping them pursue their educational goals and achieve remarkable things.  

Lauren, one of our 2023 winners, embodied the core values of Daniel Stark’s Extraordinary Scholarship program by helping students with special needs find employment opportunities. 

What inspired Lauren to make a difference? 

Before entering high school, Lauren came across a news segment on TV about an ice cream shop in Dallas that exclusively hired individuals with special needs. Witnessing students with disabilities working with smiles on their faces left a lasting impact on her.

“This story touched me because I volunteered at my church on Sundays, where I taught the Bible to young children with special needs,” Lauren shared. “It gave me a sense of accomplishment as I watched these young students grow in their maturity, their relationship with me, and their relationship with God.” 

Lauren began following the Dallas ice cream shop on social media and discovered that it had several locations where many students with disabilities were employed. This inspired Lauren to seek ways to help her community in a similar way. She and her mother researched businesses across the country and even explored franchise opportunities with the Dallas ice cream shop to find avenues to employ students. 

How did Lauren bring her vision to life? 

During high school, Lauren was determined to connect students with disabilities to local businesses and organizations. She approached her town’s Chamber of Commerce with the idea, leading to the creation of the LISD Occupational Outreach Program (L.O.O.P.) to facilitate these connections. 

Although she faced challenges developing the program due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, Lauren persevered. She teamed up with multiple special needs coordinators to create a skill set template for students and worked with the Chamber of Commerce to ensure these skills aligned well with the needs of local businesses. 

“We had news organizations help us get the word out by running stories about the program,” Lauren explained. “As a result, we have been able to help employ students and place them in businesses through a large grant they received for the project.” 

Lauren’s advocacy efforts even led to opportunities to present her program to Tyler Junior College. “I knew the exposure would help grow L.O.O.P. to impact countless lives for years to come,” said Lauren. 

What is Lauren up to now? 

Currently, Lauren is a freshman at John Brown University and is pursuing dual majors in Christian Ministry and Formation as well as Outdoor Leadership Ministries.  

In addition to her studies, she is gaining hands-on experience as a lighting designer for live events, including weekly chapel services, through a work-study position. Plus, she is an assistant lighting designer and programmer for the university’s recent theater production, The Glass Menagerie

Lauren also contributes to the Sports Production team, assisting with broadcasting and live streams for volleyball, soccer, and basketball games. She has recently become a member of the women’s ultimate frisbee team at her university and is participating in ministry opportunities, starting with a spring break mission trip to serve refugee families in Dallas, Texas. 

Daniel Stark’s Extraordinary Scholarship 

According to Lauren, the financial assistance provided by Daniel Stark’s Extraordinary Scholarship helped make private, Christian higher education accessible to her. 

“Thanks to scholarships like the Extraordinary Scholarship, I could afford a Christian-based higher education that not only propels me academically and vocationally, but also socially,” she said. Attending a private school has enabled Lauren to join the university’s honors program, be in classrooms with a lower student-to-professor ratio, and receive personalized learning tailored to students’ needs. 

We are incredibly grateful to support Lauren’s educational journey at John Brown University. Our goal is to empower the next generation to make a positive difference, and we are honored to share remarkable stories like Lauren’s as she continues to dedicate herself to her ministry efforts and serving others around her. 

Congratulations to all our 2023 scholarship winners!  

To apply for our 2024 Extraordinary Scholarship program, click here.