A unique scholarship organization, the non-profit Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation (CKSF), is preparing to launch its newest program: the Auto Math Challenge.

Founded in 2001 by Daryl Hulce, Alex Velasquez, and Tom Walser, CKSF creates quizzes on everything from classic novels to books of the Bible to, most recently, math. Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, administers the program.

“We didn’t mean to start a scholarship foundation; we were actually trying to help teachers at four south Florida schools,” Hulce said. “We created an online quiz generator so their students could practice before taking exams. We put books from a high school reading list in the quiz generator, Catcher in the Rye, Great Gatsby, Shoeless Joe, etc. We noticed that kids from all over the world were finding the system and taking the quizzes, apparently for no reason.”

“One day I thought, if high school students will do this for no reason, they would love it if they could win scholarship money for taking the quizzes,” Hulce said. “I called a friend from my high school class and asked if he would match my $250 donation to create a scholarship for the student that had the highest score based on time and accuracy.  He did and that was the first scholarship.”

At first, the program had 50 to 100 students registering each week. After CKSF developed a scholarship based on the FBI website, the number of students registering jumped to an average of 1,000 each day for 60 days. There are currently over a million registered students, and CKSF has awarded about $400,000 in scholarship money.

The scholarships are developed with donations, so the number CKSF gives out varies. So far, Hulce said, the organization has “created over 350 quizzes with scholarships that have ranged from $100 to $10,000.”

“In high school I was an average student. I didn’t receive any scholarships for college,” Hulce said. “So when we sat down to create a name for our new venture, I suggested that we create a scholarship program based on ‘common knowledge,’ one that even average students could win and especially those that didn’t have a colorful volunteer history or exceptional essay writing skills.  And that is how we came up with the name ‘Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation.’”

“Our mission is to create scholarship (financial) and scholarly (educational) programs that all students have a real chance to win,” Hulce added.

Another program developed by CKSF is called USA-SOS (Safe Online Surfing). This internet safety program is free for every elementary and middle school in the U.S. Over 400,000 students have participated in the program.

CKSF is currently working on two new programs. The first is the Auto Math Challenge, a quiz competition for high school students. Students answer math questions about typical car expenses, while discovering how relevant math is in the real world and how expensive cars can be. The highest scoring student wins scholarship money. Hulce plans to expand this idea, adding Sneaker math and Shopping math to the program.

Another program in the works is called Tuition Back Scholarships. “This was actually one of the first scholarships I created on my own,” Hulce said. “I was teaching a course and used a CKSF quiz to test my students instead of paper and pencil.  Besides a grade for the class, I offered to give the person with the highest score their tuition back for the course.  That turned out to be quite appealing to the students.”

CKSF has since further developed this idea to include core college courses. It now usually provides two quizzes, one before mid-terms and one before finals. Even if the student does not win the scholarship, the quizzes are excellent exam preparation.

College students and high school interns are heavily involved in the program, developing and testing questions and advertising the program while gaining volunteer hours.

Hulce said he enjoys working with college student interns and high school ambassadors. He also loves giving the scholarship to the winner. “It is extremely rewarding… To see the look in the student’s eyes and see the pride in the faces of the parents—there is nothing else that I have ever done that compares.”

Hulce added that the hardest part of running the program was, “Knowing that we can’t help everyone.  Sometimes I find that I am giving scholarship money to people I have never met and at the same time I have to watch some of the student employees in my office struggle to pay for college.  The IRS doesn’t allow you to just ‘give’ scholarships to friends and family.”

“I have been asked many times if I am afraid that someone will steal the idea of what we are doing,” Hulce added. “My answer is that there will never be enough scholarship money to help all the students that want to go to college… so I would gladly explain exactly how we do it, to anyone that wants to know.”

For more information, or to sign up for the scholarship quizzes, visit the scholarship site.

 

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.