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Scholarships + Sprinklers = Safety

Students Benefit From Education 

Since its creation in 1996, the American Fire Sprinkler Association’s (AFSA) Scholarship Contests have sought to promote the scholarship outside of the fire sprinkler industry in the hope of reaching students who may otherwise never have recognized the importance of automatic fire protection. Now entering its 25th year, the AFSA scholarship program continues to grow, attracting over 105,500 unique visitors to its website thus far in 2020. This year, a total of $20,000 was awarded through this public awareness campaign to 10 lucky graduating high school seniors as they pursue their higher education goals.  

Scholarships for Seniors

For the high school senior contest, applicants must be a current high school senior planning to attend an accredited U.S. college, university, or trade school in the coming Fall. Applicants are required to read a passage about fire sprinklers—which describes their history, how they operate, and the types of careers that are available in the industry—and take an eight-question reading comprehension test. For each question answered correctly, the student receives one entry into a drawing for one of 10 $2,000 scholarships. A total of eight entries per applicant into the drawing are possible.

The winners were randomly selected from over 46,000 students who entered to receive a one-time $2,000 AFSA scholarship payable to their respective college, university or trade school. The 10 national winners for 2020 are Emmanuel Bryant, Greenville, North Carolina; Taylor Cook, Clovis, California; Nayeli Flores, Porterville, California; Lily Jewett, Cumming, Georgia; Liam McFarland, Olympia, Washington; Sage Orbell, Riverton, Wyoming; Bena Patel, Irvine, California;  Alexandria Self, Lacombe, Louisiana;  Gabriela Shamblin, Lakeland, Florida; and Karina Villegas, Paint Rock, Texas.

Winner Sage Orbell knew “basically nothing” before she entered this contest. “I think [fire sprinklers] are incredibly helpful devices. They have prevented many fire-based disasters and saved many lives and properties. They revolutionized factory safety practices.” Orbell is currently attending Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

After learning more about fire sprinklers through this contest, winner Lily Jewett, majoring in performing arts at Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia, says, “Fire sprinklers need to be in as many buildings as possible.”

Winner Liam McFarland knew little about fire sprinklers “besides that they are often used in schools. I appreciate the environmental benefits, not to mention the safety benefits.” He is a freshman History major at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Bena Patel, studying bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, comments, “I didn’t know much… I have a new respect for people who build and test fire sprinklers now that I know how much work goes into them for safety purposes. Fire is dangerous, and precautions need to be taken so they aren’t any tragedies.”

Karina Villegas majoring in Education at Howard College in San Angelo, Texas, reports, “I did not know anything about fire sprinkler systems. They are a very reliable way to keep people safe.”

“Awarding scholarships to talented students is one of our organization’s key contributions to the future of the fire protection industry and beyond,” says AFSA Director of Communications & Social Media Nicole Duvall, staff liaison to AFSA’s Public Education & Awareness Committee, which oversees the annual scholarship program. “Our board and staff are dedicated to keeping this very worthwhile program going strong, even in these challenging times. It is our mission and our legacy to educate the next generation about the life-saving benefits of fire sprinklers and to support education in everything we do. Since we began the program, we have awarded over half a million dollars in scholarships.”

Second Chance Scholarships

While a second chance contest wasn’t held in 2020, one will be offered for 2021. Five $1,00 scholarships will be awarded to five students, drawn at random. Applicants for the second chance contest must reside in the United States, hold a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent, and be enrolled at or accepted to a college/university or certified trade school. Second chance students follow the same rules and procedures as the high school senior students for entering. For each question answered correctly, the student receives one entry into a drawing for one of the scholarships. A total of eight entries per applicant into the drawing are possible. 

Students Enter Online

The high school senior contest is currently open now until April 1, 2021. The second chance contest will open on that date and run through August 31, 2021. AFSA scholarships are open to U.S. citizens or legal residents and are not based on financial need. For details or to apply, visit

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