H&R Block awards $100,000 in scholarships to students demonstrating commitment to Make Every Block Better
Ten high school students each awarded $10,000 through Children of Associates Premier Scholarship program
For several years, H&R Block has been supporting students related to associates and franchisees through the Children of Associates Premier Scholarship (CAPS) program. This year through CAPS we awarded another $100,000 in scholarships to 10 high-achieving high school students across the country. In addition to their academic success, the finalists all showed strong commitments to making their communities better. In alignment with H&R Block’s Make Every Block Better initiative, this was the first year CAPS scholarship applicants were asked to share how they balanced civic engagement with academics. The students responded with stories of service projects and volunteer work that represented their diverse passions.
“I was consistently impressed with how hard each of the scholarship winners worked over the last four years,” said Jeff Jones, president and CEO of H&R Block. “But what was most impressive was the innovative and impactful ways they all gave back to their communities.”
The 2020 CAPS winners are:
- Adit Agarwal (father Sameer Agarwal) of Overland Park, Kan.
- Bowen Boyack (father Eric Boyack) of Lawrence, Kan.
- Katherine Chen (mother Meifang Lin) of Knoxville, Tenn.
- Gilberto Diaz (mother Edith Diaz) of Tracy, Calif.
- Olivia Henry (mother Jasmine Henry) of Lorton, Va.
- Raece Oakeson (grandfather Gary Melton) of Boise, Idaho
- Arpit Ranasaria (mother Pushpa Sihania) of Redmond, Wash.
- Rosalind Roland (mother Karen Marshall) of Cincinnati, Ohio
- Nicholas Russell (mother Ileana Valverde-Russell) of Cincinnati, Ohio
- Haidyn Washburn (mother Heather Washburn) of Sanger, Calif.
The 10 students share an impressive commitment to their communities and include: student activists pushing for equity in their districts and curriculums; nonprofit founders offering programming classes to youth and scholarships to low-income students; and outdoor enthusiasts rebuilding community green spaces. Their stories are highlighted below:
Teaming up to teach programming skills, Adit Agarwal
A Presidential Service Gold Award winner, Adit Agarwal and a friend created a nonprofit organization, the Kansas City Programming Dojo (KCPD). KCPD introduces students to computer science and offers free programming classes to students in grades 5-8.
“Teaching has been an incredible experience for me and seeing my students’ growth throughout a given semester is one of my favorite feelings,” said Agarwal. “As a whole, teaching this class has allowed me and my friends to make computer science education more accessible to youth in our community.”
Transforming an empty field into a teaching tool, Bowen Boyack
Bowen Boyack led a multi-year effort to build a Monarch butterfly garden and waystation for his community. The county designated a barren field for the purpose and Boyack’s efforts involved designing the space in coordination with the nonprofit Monarch Watch and planting the garden. The field is situated across from an elementary school and now serves a as a valuable teaching tool on Monarch butterflies.
“I added an informational sign to the area so that school children and other visitors to the site could appreciate the importance of pollinators in general and learn more about the Monarch migration path that traverses Lawrence,” said Boyack.
Using entrepreneurship for underprivileged students, Katherine Chen
As an artist, volunteer camp counselor, and Scholars Bowl club president, CAPS winner Katherine Chen has many talents. She took just one of those talents, along with a passion for inspiring disadvantaged children, to create her bookmark business called Book Kat. The business’ proceeds go toward providing school boxes to kindergartners in need.
“Book Kat was the perfect fusion of my love for painting, my entrepreneurial spirit, and my desire to fight the issue of the education gap I saw in my community,” said Chen. “I intend to take the mission I started in my backyard and expand it to greater neighborhoods as a university student.”
Exploring STEM in new ways, Gilberto Diaz
Gilberto Diaz is a scholar and two-sport athlete who has shared his passions by teaching community youth. Diaz has taught soccer skills in a youth soccer program and participated in the Scientifically Speaking club, an organization that allows high schoolers to reach younger students and get them excited about science. When his school dropped its makerspace class, Diaz recognized a need and founded the Makerspace Club to give him and his classmates a place to explore STEM activities.
“MakerSpace was an amazing experience that I am proud to have brought to my school’s community,” said Diaz. “We launched rockets, designed 3D printed balloon cars for our balloon car races, and blew up pumpkins with rubber bands and dry ice.”
Speaking out to improve public schools, Olivia Henry
Olivia Henry participates in mock trials as a founder and coach of the team and has turned her interest in politics into action. As a student leader with her county’s school board, Henry brought together student representatives to discuss ways to improve their schools and organized a town hall. Olivia held a mock trial to bring together student representatives from across the county to discuss ways to improve public schools. She hosted a town hall and brought a proposal to the school board, which they will deliberate in the upcoming year.
“Through this fantastic experience, I was able to shed a light on the academic inequities throughout the county and host a town hall for students to voice their concerns on the issue,” said Henry.
Organizing blood drives and improving local trails, Raece Oakson
As a community volunteer and junior member of his local parks and recreation board, Raece Oakson is working to expand local trail systems and improve outdoor recreation opportunities in his community. After the local Red Cross issued pleas for blood donors, Raece began organizing neighborhood blood drives. He now hosts them every three to four months organized a blood drive in his neighborhood. Since then, his blood drives have become a local tradition that occurs every three to four months.
“To date, our blood drives and amazing community have worked together to gather 289 units to be given to those in need,” said Oakson.
Inspiring young scientists, Arpit Ranasaria
Arpit Ranasaria is not only involved in his school’s science and math clubs, but heavily invested in community service. When the coronavirus pandemic impacted his community, he and three other members began Namas4U, an organization of 80 volunteers, that has now supported 100 quarantined and immunocompromised families with needed supplies and donated masks to local healthcare workers. Ranasaria also took his love of science and with friends created a nonprofit called Science Infinity, which now has three chapters. The nonprofit has raised more than $35,000 to support underprivileged students around the world.
“The organization, which is “of the students, by the students, and for the students” is dedicated not only to spreading a passion for science and inspiring the next generation to be world citizens in our planet’s future, but also nurturing the passions of underprivileged children globally,” said Ranasaria.
Advocating for equity and inclusion, Rosalind Roland
Rosalind Roland, a student leader and activist, is interested in bringing awareness to issues of equity and justice. Not only did she found the Social Justice Club, which raised funds for education for girls in developing countries, Roland developed and implemented diversity and inclusion curriculums across different grades at her school.
Attending a recent student diversity leadership conference “sparked my passion for social justice and ultimately started my project of bringing equity- and inclusivity-driven lesson plans to my school,” said Roland.
Revitalizing a community garden, Nicholas Russell
CAPS recipient Nicholas Russell is a multi-sport athlete and an Eagle Scout who undertook a project to renovate a community garden for a disadvantaged neighborhood. By rebuilding paths and replacing a water-damaged shed with a new one, Russell improved the garden’s accessibility for some of its older gardeners.
“Many of the people gardening in these plots were elderly and would have to trod through the tall grass and weeds that were growing all over. With the weeding and mulching I did, the gardeners are now able to freely access any part of the garden without any trouble,” said Russell. “I worked to tear down the old shed and build a brand new one in its place that would be able to hold all of the garden’s tools and be ramp-accessible for the older gardeners.”
Leading the charge for volunteerism, Haidyn Washburn
As the leader of her city’s Youth Council, Haidyn Washburn works closely with the city and mayor to build a strong community through volunteerism. Through the Youth Council, she has hosted community events to bring people closer together and worked on beautification projects to improve public spaces.
“Working with the Youth Council has been one of the most rewarding opportunities of my life,” said Washburn. “Learning about local politics, assisting with open forum meetings, and engaging in different community service projects has taught me more about myself and allowed me to unite those around me through a common sense of purpose and service.”
The scholarships can be used at any accredited four-year university for an undergraduate degree program, including online. Learn more about the H&R Block CAPS program.
Find out how H&R Block supports community garden projects that help bring neighborhoods and people together.
Read more about the community centers in Oakland and Philadelphia that have received upgrades via a Make Every Block Better partnership between H&R Block and Nextdoor.
Read more about H&R Block’s donation to the American Red Cross to support relief and recovery efforts in communities impacted by winter storm Uri.
H&R Block and Nextdoor are continuing their partnership with 10 more community-led projects that help neighbors connect. Read more.