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Youth to Leaders
Lead. Love. Save. Serve.

Tavis Smiley Foundation

National Youth Advisory Council



Tavis Smiley Foundation
Since its inception . . .

More than 6,000 youth ages 13 to 18 have participated in the Foundation's leadership training workshops and conferences.


Lead. Love. Save. Serve.

You can't lead the people unless you love the people.
You can't save the people unless you serve the people.


Smiley Scholars Program Guidelines

Thank you for you interest in the 2012 Smiley Scholars program. This is important information about the scholarships and how to apply. Please read carefully to avoid disqualification.


What is the Smiley Scholars Program?

The Tavis Smiley Foundation Smiley Scholars Program seeks to identify students who will make a significant contribution to their community. As part of its commitment to education and youth, the Tavis Smiley Foundation has provided scholarship awards since 2001.

To date, the foundation has awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships. Recipients have attended a range of universities and colleges, including Yale, Xavier, Howard and Bowie State universities and Morehouse College.


What are the scholarship awards?

This year Smiley Scholars will award 5 scholarships of $5,000 each. Completed applications must be received by 5 p.m. October 5, 2012. The application must physically be in our office by 5 PM - NOT POSTMARKED BY OCT. 5. Winners will be announced by mail by November 2012.


The 2012 Smiley Scholars program includes a partnership with the United Health Foundation. In addition to meeting qualifications of the Tavis Smiley Foundation you must be planning to enter a healthcare field to apply for this opportunity. For example: doctor, dentist, nurse, psychologist, pediatrician, etc.

You must include an essay that details why you’ve chosen this field and how you plan to give back to the community in this career. For example, some past recipients have shared plans to open family care clinics or open a practice in their communities.


Applicant Qualifications

  • Applicants must be United States citizens and attending an accredited college or university in the United States.
  • Applicants must have participated in any one of the following foundation programs: the Youth to Leaders conference series, the 2003 Youth to Leaders National Summit, the Tavis Smiley Foundation Leadership Institute, the Talented Tenth High School Tour or Youth 2 Leaders Ventures.
  • Be a high school senior*
  • Applicants must be enrolled as full-time college students when the award is disbursed.
  • Applicants must have a minimum grade point average of 2.5 (C+) on a 4.0 system.
  • Applications will be judged on the following criteria: academic achievement, evidence of leadership and community service; and participation in Tavis Smiley Foundation programs.
  • Your application must include a recent photo that can be submitted via a jpeg to This means a professional picture similar to your senior portrait. No Facebook pictures; no pictures with you and your friends.

*Since the scholarships will be awarded in the fall, we expect that the high school seniors have graduated in May or June 2012 and are now enrolled in their first semester of college.


The application is available on the Tavis Smiley Foundation website at Students should download the application and submit in one envelope the following information:

  1. Completed Application Form
  2. One Personal Essay – Your Essay should answer the questions posed on the application. Additionally, you must include a statement that can be separate or included in the essay specifically stating why you choose a healthcare field and how you intend to give back in the future with that field.
  1. Copy of Official High School Transcript
  2. Two Letters of Recommendation: A personal reference and an academic or community involvement reference
  3. Copy of College Letter of Acceptance* (Scholarship winners will be required to submit proof of full-time college enrollment before awards are disbursed.)
  4. A Recent Photo


Yes. If you are contacting people to provide you with recommendation letters, please advise them that they can send their letter separately to the following address:

Tavis Smiley Foundation
Re: Smiley Scholars Recommendation
4434 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90043

The letters must arrive by 5pm Oct. 5, 2012. It’s your responsibility to track and follow up with the recommender. We WILL NOT do it for you. The letters must be mailed – no fax or emails. Don’t get disqualified for not following the instructions. Contact them today!


For questions, call 323-290-1888 or send an email to with Smiley Scholars in the subject line.



Empowering today's youth for tomorrow

What is the application deadline?

The application deadline is October 5, 2012. Applications received after the deadline will not be accepted. The Tavis Smiley Foundation is not responsible for lost or stolen mail. No faxed or emailed applications will be accepted. Applications missing any of these materials will not be considered.


What if I still have a question?

For questions, call 323-290-1888 or send an email to with Smiley Scholars in the subject line.