Louis Rukavina was channel surfing. Click. A news account of a huge banquet honoring local sports stars. Click. A national news report on science and math scores of school-age children. Out of 15 industrial nations, the United States ranked near the bottom.
Click off the TV. Click on the idea in Rukavina’s head. Why not honor students who are scholars, the way we honor student athletes? Make it an elegant affair. Give away BIG scholarship money.
One man. One thought. The Spokane attorney worked the phones. He called fellow attorney Bill Etter. He called Dr. Eric Johnson. The three men coached football together at Cataldo School. “You get the docs; we’ll get the lawyers,” he told Johnson. They were like Mickey Rooney and his gang in those old movies: “We’ll put on our own show!”
They did. The Spokane Scholars Foundation came into existence four years ago and Thursday night, at the third annual banquet, more than 100 high school scholars were honored. Five of the nominees received $3,000 scholarships each. The banquet has grown more grand each year; more than 175 companies and individuals now contribute time and money.
“A good idea flies itself,” Rukavina says.
The ballroom at the Ag Trade Center was a nice place to pass a few hours Thursday, the day after a bomb exploded any sense of security we cling to anymore. The teens were dressed up for the evening. Tears welled in parents’ eyes as the names of their children were read aloud. Amazing kids. Straight A’s. Gifted in art, music, math, science. Writers of poetry, community volunteers.
In the midst of the celebration of brain power, a dark thought intruded. The bombers’ plan to blow up men, women and children began as a thought, too. One night, perhaps, some angry men sitting around a table decided “We’ll put on our own show!”
They did. And now more than a dozen children will never grow up to excel in anything. They’ll never stand up at a banquet and receive an award, their parents teary-eyed beside them.
But don’t abandon hope. The man-made terror of the world can be countered if people act on the thoughts that lead to the good. Rukavina could have turned the TV off that fateful night and dismissed his crazy idea. He’s a busy man, why take on one more thing? The people he called could have discouraged him. A banquet for scholars? Forget it.
Instead, he dialed the phone. People came through with time, money, enthusiasm. And because of that, in a week of terror, there existed a safe place in Spokane, a place filled with smart young people dressed in their best, promising us a future.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board.