Call it the Bart Simpson scholarship. A Japanese bank has set aside $200,000 to give Los Angeles city school students who, like the wise-cracking cartoon character, are identified as underachievers--those with high ability but only average grades.
Kareem Hoover, a ninth-grader at Pacoima Junior High School, was one of 10 Los Angeles Unified School District students, and the only one in the San Fernando Valley, selected for the $2,000 and $4,000 scholarships from the Yasuda Trust & Banking Co. Ltd.
"There is a slight twist to our scholarship program," said Tomio Yamanaka, deputy general manager of the bank. "Good performing students have many chances to get scholarships. So we wanted to give the opportunity to C-average students."
According to the scholarship requirements, the students must graduate from high school and enroll in a four-year college to receive $4,000.
They will get $2,000 if they get their high school diploma and then attend a two-year community college.
Pacoima Junior High counselor Ramona Wilson said Kareem fit perfectly the scholarship requirements set out by Yasuda bank officials. He has consistently scored high on annual achievement tests, but in the past two years his grades have dipped, she said. Officials at 10 Los Angeles schools--picked because of economic need and lower-than-average achievement scores--were asked to recommend a student by Yasuda bank officials.
"Kareem is a gifted student who has not been working up to his potential," Wilson said.
Pacoima Principal Maria Wale said one of Kareem's former teachers called him "a pain" because he liked to socialize during class.
Kareem is the first to admit to the criticism. He said he did well in elementary school, but like many his age, had trouble adjusting to junior high school life.
"I was a bad kid in class," said Kareem, 14. "I was always talking a lot. I got sent a few times to the principal's office, and I didn't always do my homework."
Now, Kareem said, he is going to do better. The announcement this past week of his scholarship win has inspired him to work harder at his studies, he said.
"I'm going to pay attention in class," said Kareem, who wants to study engineering at either UCLA or the University of Michigan.
Bank officials say they will award the scholarships to 10 students a year for five years, beginning this fall. The program commemorates the 65th anniversary of the bank--the 25th largest in the world--as well as the 10 years its Los Angeles branch has been operating.