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Scholarship series: Leveling the playing field: Charles and Robin Paul on giving back

Editor’s note: Each week, the Courier will be taking a look at local scholarships and the people they are named for.

By Greg Keener
Clemmons Community Foundation

Charles and Robin Paul, who refer to themselves as “two regular folks who just happen to be Chris and C.J.’s parents,” are givers. Both are active members of the Chris Paul Family Foundation. Established in 2005, the foundation has partnered with Feed the Children, Make-A-Wish, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs, and many other organizations, working to level the playing field in education, sports and life.

But Charles and Robin’s giving spirit goes back much further than that.

“We did not just start giving when Chris made it to the NBA; we have always been givers; our parents were givers,” says Robin, who also serves on the board of the Clemmons Community Foundation. “You don’t have to have a lot to give back, if you are giving from the heart. Little things make a difference.” Charles describes how they always did what they could to help his children and their friends. “Whenever we saw a need, we helped with that need. That could be monetary; it could be giving our son’s friend a ride. You don’t have to be a rock star to give back. There are plenty of people doing this, and no one sees it.”

Charles and Robin give from their faith in God and guidance from Scripture, giving happily and cheerfully, out of a desire to make a difference. The newly established Charles and Robin Paul Scholarship Award is one more example.

The $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to an adult student from Forsyth County who is returning to education to complete an academic or vocational program. Preference is given to students planning to attend Winston-Salem State University. This opportunity is a Community Scholarship from the Clemmons Community Foundation.

And what is the outcome Robin hopes to see? “I’d like to know someone was able to go back to school, finish, and get their dream job. People say, ‘when you love what you do, it does not feel like a job.’ That is what I hope this scholarship creates for someone.” Charles adds, “I want people to realize there are people out there trying to help those who need this type of help.”

It was a similar spirit that launched the Community Scholarship program. Each year, the applications received surpassed the number of scholarships the foundation had available. In response, the board of directors established the Community Scholarship Fund for returning adult students. The fund will accept donations of any size, allowing anyone to contribute any amount to help students realize their college aspirations. At a certain gift level, a Community Scholarship can be named. As Robin points out, anyone can be part of this program.

“Anybody, I mean anybody, can do this. Trust me; it is needed. Get in touch with the Clemmons Community Foundation. I am glad we were blessed enough to start this. No amount is too big or too small,” she says.

Without a doubt, the need is there. COVID-19 has taken away jobs, required enrolled students to withdraw, and caused would-be first-year students to put plans on hold. This new opportunity is especially for them. After all, going back to school, even in pre-pandemic times, is not easy. The Pauls understand.

“With the pandemic, people have lost jobs and are trying to go back to school. It’s hard. There are a lot of people without jobs and a whole lot of jobs that require more education. We lived that. We know how hard it can be.”

Charles also recalls their own family’s struggle to complete education that had to be put on hold. “My wife tried to go back to school when we were both working, with kids, and she was telling me to go back as well. It was hard to do. Other things are going on, kids playing sports, family members getting sick. We know this happens to other people,” says Charles.

It was this type of personal experience that also led to the creation of the Chris Paul Family Foundation and the motivation to “level the playing field.”

“When Chris started taking his son to school, he saw the technology at his private school. It was up-to-date and new. Kids at other schools didn’t have anything close. In some areas, schools are so much more advanced in what they have. So, we worked to set up technology labs and start STEM programs all over the country.” Technology has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. “When we were growing up, kids were all learning the same thing in the same way; now everyone sees there are different levels,” Charles adds. As Charles and Robin consider the world in which their grandchildren Lil Chris, Camryn, Chloe, and Carder are growing up, they see that not all of those levels are equal. Their charitable efforts seek to change that. That includes helping students who have been out of school for a year or more, the person who may not have the money or access to the same scholarships high school seniors have.

Charles offers this encouragement to the hesitant applicant or the contemplating student: “If you don’t take that leap of faith, you don’t have a chance.” Robin adds, “Go back to the Scriptures. ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ You can do it.”

The playing field will not always be level, and returning to school is no easy task. However, the faith and heart of individuals like the Pauls help provide access and opportunity.

The application period for the Charles and Robin Paul Scholarship Award is open until May 6. Apply online at clemmonsfoundation.org or contact the Clemmons Community Foundation to learn more at 336-663-6794 ext. 2 or email Program Officer Greg Keener at greg@clemmonsfoundation.org

Greg Keener is program officer at Clemmons Community Foundation.