With 106 scholars in tow, the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund traveled to Palm Desert for its annual Topping Scholar Retreat in August.
“The retreat is the event that the students look forward to every year,” said director Christina Yokoyama. “It establishes our community and sets the tone for the year.”
Filled with skits, presentations and meals, the weekend-long retreat provided new fund recipients the opportunity to get to know their resources and served as a refresher for continuing recipients to learn about changes to the fund. Scholars also were treated to workshops hosted by 15 student affairs professionals and campus colleagues.
“The most important resource for our students is each other,” Yokoyama said. “This gives them the opportunity to mix and mingle as much as possible and also to interact with campus colleagues.”
In its 40th year, the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund helps USC students with high financial need who demonstrate community awareness. It is the only student-initiated, student-funded and primarily student-administered scholarship program in the nation.
Applicants from areas near the University Park and Health Science campuses, as well as first-generation college students, are given primary consideration.
One highlight of the retreat was a presentation by summer immersion program participants who went to Japan.
“The idea was to encourage all our students to study abroad and travel outside their comfort zones,” Yokoyama said. “Students who participated were able to motivate others. You could see students getting excited and wanting to take part in something they had never thought about before.
“One nice thing is that all scholars have a story, yet scholars don’t have to know each other’s stories to know they have something in common. Just knowing that you have someone else to lean on is really important to first-generation college students.”
In honor of its 40th year, the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund will host a variety of activities throughout the year, culminating with an end-of-the-year anniversary gala that will bring Topping Scholar alumni back to campus. Planned events include Safe Halloween in the fall and Eggster in the spring for the community, a faculty-student luncheon every semester, Parents Weekend activities and an academic success seminar series.