Rotaract Club designs Allegheny scholarship

The Rotaract Club of Allegheny College is designing its first student scholarship this fall. An initiative of the club’s founder and president, Alexis Sotelo, ’19, the scholarship will go toward covering a portion of Allegheny’s required school supplies, a parking pass or gator cash expenses for a student local to the Meadville area.

Sotelo hopes that, with enough preparation, the scholarship will be ready to launch by fall 2019 for an incoming first-year student from the Meadville Area Senior High School.

“(The scholarship) will be most likely small, because we have to start somewhere, so maybe like $250, and that could be for books for a student,” Sotelo said. “I’m hoping that it will promote some publicity for the club too.”

The scholarship will ask applicants to explain in an essay how the club’s local services have impacted their lives in a positive way. Because the Rotaract Club of Allegheny College is affiliated with the Rotary Club of Meadville, members of the Rotary Afternoon Club of Meadville will assist in deciding who the scholarship should be awarded to. The scholarship will reflect Rotary International’s mission of providing humanitarian service to those who are in need of it, as well as their motto of putting “service above self.”

“Knowing that a good handful of students went to Allegheny based on merit scholarship they received, I think that this will be a great opportunity to help pay for at least books or a parking ticket,” Sotelo explained.

Mark Weindorf, president of the Rotary Club of Meadville, voiced his belief  that the scholarship will be highly beneficial to future students of Allegheny College.

“(A scholarship) would be awesome, it would be big,” Weindorf said. “I just think it’s a great opportunity for some young person to get some money to get further education … it really is a burden for young people to be so heavily in debt after receiving their four-year degree.”

When Sotelo began establishing the first Rotaract Club of Allegheny College in 2017, the task quickly became challenging, and the Rotary Club of Meadville helped her accomplish it. The only difference between the two organizations is age: Rotaract Clubs focus on young adults ages 18-30, and members of Rotary Clubs are typically above this age range. Both clubs, however, work toward similar goals and support each other.

“We’ve helped Alexis (Sotelo) get set up and chartered,” Weindorf said. “The same district governor that oversees us oversees the Rotaract club, and so we are interested in helping work with them. (The Rotaract Club) is just to get younger people out of high school and college involved with civic giving and service.”

Because of its loyalty to the Rotaract Club of Allegheny College, the Rotary Club of Meadville will be contributing $100 to funds for the scholarship. The rest of the financial support will come from several Rotary Clubs from Sotelo’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, and from her parents.

“So we might be looking at a $500 scholarship, (but) we’ll see where the wind blows us,” Sotelo said.

The chosen recipient of the scholarship will be asked to commit to joining Rotaract Club of Allegheny College if they have not done so already. Instructor of Spanish and French Nancy Smith, ’74, the club’s faculty adviser, described the positive impact joining the organization can have on Allegheny students, as well as the greater community of Meadville.

“When I was a student at Allegheny, Meadville could have fallen off the face of the planet and I wouldn’t have known,” Smith joked. “… I think it’s important for the community to get to know the college people, (and) I think it’s important for college people to get to know the community.”

The reason Smith decided to become the faculty adviser for the Rotaract Club of Allegheny College, Smith replied with one word: “Alexis.”

“She was my compelling reason,” Smith said. “I just love her. I couldn’t say no.”

Smith went on to explain the admiration that she holds for Sotelo and her efforts to get the scholarship started on her own accord.

“This was strictly her idea, and she brought it to me and I said, ‘I didn’t even know that existed, that’s a great idea,” Smith said. “I am so proud of her (for) doing it. … she has found her way (at Allegheny) and she’s definitely succeeding, so I am very proud of her.”

Sotelo’s passion for civic engagement was what motivated her to start the scholarship. Sotelo explained that she has traveled a lot, which has allowed her to understand the importance of responding to the needs of all communities.

“What inspired me was seeing all of the people in need, not just in third-world countries, but here in the United States,” Sotelo said. “A lot of people don’t know that there are a lot of individuals struggling in the United States.”

This semester, the Rotaract Club of Allegheny College has participated in a Habitat for Humanity event in Erie, and next Monday they will be volunteering at the Stone United Methodist Church soup kitchen in downtown Meadville. Moving forward, what remains on the club’s agenda, particularly Sotelo’s, is getting its scholarship finalized and ready to serve the Meadville community.