By Chelsea Flood
As the five-year anniversary approaches for the Blake Norvell Smile Scholarship, a reflection upon the overall growth and impact of the community-oriented project is owed during this milestone.
The scholarship was established back in 2013 by friends and family after the unexpected passing of Blake Norvell, a beloved Aztec alumnus.
Norvell’s mother, along with some of his closest friends, felt the scholarship was the best way to continue his legacy while providing an opportunity for aspiring Corona students who exhibit leadership qualities similar to those that Norvell possessed.
Since the program’s inception, community support behind the scholarship has been overwhelming and consistent, Norvell’s mother Stephanie says.
“We have built excellent rapport with the local businesses here,” she said. “The best part about staying local is that the business owners are dedicated to supporting and giving back to the community.
“It’s simply amazing to witness.”
Blake’s presence continues to thrive in the surrounding Tempe area, as witnessed by Stephanie when she fund-raises.
“When I enter a local establishment to discuss the scholarship, on more than one occasion the manager immediately recognizes Blake’s photo and remembers him with a smile on their face,” Stephanie said. “Making long-lasting connections was his specialty.”
This year the fundraiser transitioned back to its home roots at Zipps Sports Grill the night before Thanksgiving because the group felt it embodied the best local atmosphere in the area, Stephanie says.
“It has always been a great success. All of Blake’s friends love coming back to town for the chance to get together and catch up, while reminiscing on heartfelt memories of Blake,” Stephanie said. “Blake was always the glue bringing everyone together when he was alive; now that he’s passed he’s still doing that same exact thing.”
Well over 30 businesses donated to the cause this year, including Great Harvest Bread Co., Garcia’s The Keg, Charleston’s, Kneaders and Jimmy and Joe’s Pizzeria to name a few.
According to Stephanie, attendance was in abundance at the event, where donations continued to flood by offering each participant a “Smile” wristband for a $5 contribution, raffle tickets for purchase, and a silent auction.
So far, the grand total has reached $4,000 this year.
“As the fund continues to grow, we are confident that the scholarship will see longevity at Corona long after we slow the fundraising portion down,” Stephanie says. “I’m pleased to know that future students will be given the chance to use the scholarship to continue making a difference in their community by leading the way.”
This year, the fund will award two $1,000 scholarships to Corona seniors.
The scholarship is designed to reward a specific type of student.
“During these hard times that we’re facing, I want to spotlight those young individuals that are making a difference at their school to help their peers,” Stephanie said. “I want to celebrate the kids that are actually making a difference at Corona by giving back. If Blake could meet these kids, I know he would be so proud. ”
High school seniors wishing to be considered for a Smile Scholarship should go to www.tempe.dollarsforscholars.org, click on the Students and Parents tab toward the top of the screen, then follow the red arrow link (“Click to Login”) and create an account. Then, type in the name of your school and click choose. Fill in each page of the form to create your profile. After you create your profile, click on the ‘read more’ hyperlink under ‘my opportunities’ on the right-hand side. Click on each item in the left-hand menu. Make sure you have completed the information in all of the sections. The computer will match you to all the scholarships you qualify for. To apply for scholarships, click on my scholarships on the left-hand menu. Enter the essay responses and then click the submit application button. The deadline for the online application is Feb. 5. To make a donation, go to www.tempe.dollarsforscholars.org and designate Blake Norvell Smile Scholarship.