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Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation 30 year anniversary

Members of the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation, November 1986. Back row: Susie Kirschner, Beth Robinson, Jan Solandros, Pat Minier; front row:Colleen Sherlock, Berdie Krimmel, Andrea Aldrich, Norma Dunn, Marcia Arthur and Coral Rice
Members of the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation, November 1986. Back row: Susie Kirschner, Beth Robinson, Jan Solandros, Pat Minier; front row:Colleen Sherlock, Berdie Krimmel, Andrea Aldrich, Norma Dunn, Marcia Arthur and Coral Rice

Thirty years ago now, Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” neared the top of the music charts.  “Peggy Sue Got Married” was on the big screen and “Family Ties” was still a TV hit.  The “Oprah Winfrey Show” had just aired for the first time, and Cindy Crawford was launching her modeling career.  

Also thirty years ago, during the fall of 1986, Vashon Island High School seniors, much like today’s VHS seniors, were planning life after high school.  One fall day they were gathered together and given green cardboard notebooks.  The Vashon Island Community Scholarship program was launched, and the class of 1987 was the first group of island seniors fortunate to receive the generous scholarships donated by fellow island community members.  A dedicated group of caring parents came together in hopes of helping students further their educations and follow their dreams.  The original committee members included Susie Kirschner, Beth Robinson, Jan Solandros, Pat Minier, Colleen Sherlock, Berdie Krimmel, Andrea Aldrich, Norma Dunn, Marcia Arthur, Paul Macapia, Nancy Weinstein and Carol Rice.  That year, twenty-nine students from the class of 1987 received over $12,000.00 in scholarships, donated by island professional groups, service organizations and individual families who valued education.  Students still remember receiving their scholarships almost thirty years later.  “I think I got two or three scholarships… each made me feel appreciated by my community.  I still have my green scholarship notebook!”  (Jennifer Myers Hammer, class of ’87).

Over the past thirty years, the Vashon Community Scholarship program has grown tremendously.  The majority of the members of the senior classes now make notebooks each year.  Last year, 178 awards were given to over 100 students, totaling $151,925.00.  Over 2 million dollars has been distributed since 1987.  Scholarship money is donated through individual community members, businesses, non-profit organizations and memorials to honor love-ones.  Money is also raised by events, such as spelling bees, put on through VCSF.  Many generous donors, including J. Matthews Memorial, VEA, Rotary, Thriftway, Unitarians, Health Center Volunteers/Granny’s Attic, PEO, Fair Isle and the Vashon Pharmacy have been donating all, or close to all, thirty years.

All seniors graduating through the Vashon Island School District (including Running Start, Family Link and Student Link) who are interested in continuing their education or training beyond high school are invited to make a notebook.   Scholarship selection is based on a variety of criteria, including scholastic achievement, work experience, future goals, or school and community activities and interests.  Scholarships are not based on need, and every applicant receives some money.  The notebooks themselves include resumes (which include work experience, interests, hobbies and future plans), personal essays, transcripts and letters of recommendation.  Students also include collages of photos, awards, certificates, art work, newspaper clippings, or hobbies showing their creativity and talent.  Many students look back positively on the process of making a notebook.  “I vividly recall that it was the first time I had been asked to sell myself- which helped in the future.  It forced me to go out and ask for recommendation letters and built self-confidence.  It helped set the stage for me later on in interviews.  It made me realize how much I’d accomplished- personally and academically, even with the odd jobs I held throughout high school.  It felt good to see them all written down in one spot.” (Jennifer Myers Hammer, class of ’87).

Each spring, non-profit and memorial donors are able to view the notebooks and select their own scholarship recipients.  The remaining scholarships are selected by a Community Selection Panel made up of community members.  They choose the best matches based on contributors’ criteria.  An awards ceremony is held at Vashon High School in May, where awards are presented by donors, teachers and committee members.

One hundred percent of the money raised for the scholarship program goes towards students’ tuition.  As the cost of tuition rises, financial help becomes increasingly important to students.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and fees for in-state residents at four year universities for the 1986-1987 school year was $3,042.00.  Tuition at the University of Washington Seattle Campus for in-state students during the 2015-2016 academic year was $10,768.00.  As part of a community that values the education of our young people, please consider supporting our seniors and helping this wonderful program continue to grow!  Donations can be made at www.vashonscholarshipfoundation.org.

Mary Blomgren McFarlin, VHS graduate and VCSF board member, received a Vashon Community Scholarship from K2 Corporation in 1987.