June 17, 2021

A college education gets more expensive every year. Tuitions have skyrocketed in the past decade forcing students to take on more borrowing debt to finance their higher education dreams. Here at Community Foundation one of the many scholarships available to help offset the rising cost of college is the Northern Virginia First Responders Scholarship Fund.

The fund benefits first responders and dependents of active first responders in the Northern Virginia area. Scholarship recipients receive up to $20,000 in funds spread over four years. The fund was established by Aaron Kinworthy. We asked Aaron to share some thoughts on why it’s important to create higher learning opportunities through this scholarship.

Why did you choose to partner with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia on your philanthropy?

When we started building our idea for the Northern Virginia First Responder Scholarship Fund, it was really focused on how we could maximize our impact on the community and first responders.  We quickly realized there was a lot of administrative work and organization involved that was overwhelming and putting our dream at risk.  We had a moment of hesitation.  We doubted we could give the scholarship its proper attention and spent nearly a year contemplating what we should do.  While doing research, I came across the Community Foundation, and from the very first conversation, I knew it was a perfect fit.  They answered our continuous questions promptly and walked me through each step of the process. They did all the work that was either outside of our expertise, or we just didn’t have the bandwidth to get done.  They were amazing to work with from the beginning and very patient with us. There are many foundations out there that can help, but the biggest difference for us was the people.  We truly felt like partners and we could not have established our scholarship without them.  From the moment we partnered, the entire process accelerated our dream and it all came to fruition. We are so very thankful!                                                                                                                       

Why was it important to establish the Northern Virginia First Responders Scholarship Fund?

In my younger years, I was a volunteer firefighter, and that experience has had a profound impact on my life, even to this day.  I can attribute my success to the lessons I learned from serving my community.  Being a first responder teaches you a lot about yourself, including performing under pressure, remaining calm, and servant leadership.  All those lessons are applicable to life in general, and I owe a debt of gratitude for those lessons I learned. It was a personal life goal to give back to the community that gave so much to me. 

The notion that young adults today would consider putting themselves in harm’s way for the support of a stranger in their community is nothing less than heroic.  We were humbled by the stories of the applicants we received and so proud that there are incredible young adults out there.  This Scholarship fund is our small way of recognizing those brave individuals and saying thank you to them by highlighting their incredible efforts and accomplishments.   

Can you tell us about that fund – how do you use it to support the community?

The fund was established to support any first responder (volunteer or paid) or dependent of a first responder that is seeking higher education. We wanted to cast a wide net that would cover Northern Virginia, and include all first responders, including EMS, Fire, and Police.  When we first brainstormed the idea, we had little idea what we could do with the established funds.  The Community Foundation was extremely knowledgeable and helpful in guiding us to maximize the impact on the students.  For instance, rather than a one-time award, the Community Foundation explained that most students have difficultly financing the remaining years of their higher education.  By spreading the award over four years, we felt as though we could make a bigger impact on the students, and truly maximize the money we were investing.  They were also able to increase our reach to many students rather than one individual per year, which was exciting.  That type of advice made the Community Foundation stand out and become a valuable partner on this journey, we could not have achieved our goals without them, and we are eternally grateful. 

The 2021-2022 application period has closed. Please check back in early 2022 for the 2022-2023 application. Questions about eligibility to apply to this fund should be directed to 540-227-6660 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..