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Cascade Observations: Young scholars, take note

$200,000 is up for grabs this month. Free money for college if you’re a high school student with a compelling personal story, financial need, and the time and energy to complete a plethora of applications for locally sponsored scholarships — 79 to be exact.

The list of scholarships reads like a Who’s Who of Hood River County. There are scholarships funded by large and small businesses — Cascade Central Credit Union, Cascade Eye Center, Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers, Diamond Fruit, Duckwall –Pooley, Providence Hospital, Tofurky and Waucoma Bookstore. Most commercial donors have some specific criteria, usually related directly to their businesses. Tofurky is looking for someone dedicated to eating a plant-based diet. Waucoma wants budding authors and passionate readers to apply. Other descriptions take me by surprise. The Mike’s Ice Cream Scholarship honors students who are learning, or have learned, English as their second language. I thank the team at Mike’s for supporting those who are working diligently to assimilate here in the U.S.

Service organizations abound in their generosity. Ever purchased a hot dog from the Lions’ snack truck during an athletic competition? It’s likely you were helping fund one of several college scholarships sponsored by the Lions Club. Do you belong to a local fraternity or sorority? Your contributions will help send a worthy student to college. And the list goes on — Rotary, American Legion and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship are a few more of the countless groups whose generous funds are changing students’ lives.

The biggest category of givers, though, might be the memorial scholarships. Scanning the list is like visiting with old friends. Almost 50 funds are named for those folks who once graced our lives with their presences, and now grace us with fond memories and generous scholarships. I was lucky enough to call some of them my friends — Virginia and Don Hosford, Millie May, Aileen Gaddy, and Ted Webber are just a few who welcomed me to this community that has been my home for 36 years.

The task of reviewing the memorial scholarship list becomes more heart wrenching when I see the names of local people I knew when they were children, and whose lives ended before they should have. Descriptions at the beginning of the scholarship applications allow glimpses into their young lives.

Ryan Bowe Memorial Scholarship: “The family and friends of Ryan Bowe have established a scholarship in his memory. Ryan grew up in Hood River, graduating from HRVHS in 1995. He loved the valley and ‘ran all over it.’ Ryan...

•completed the Sternwheeler Run at the age of 8

• ran his first Hood-to-Coast as a 12-year-old

• co-organized a Hood-to-Coast team of middle school buddies at 13

• participated in cross-country and track in middle and high school

• continued his love of running at Washington & Lee University where he

• was captain of the cross-country team

• ran regularly as an adult.

Ryan often returned from runs with amusing or amazing stories to share!”

Laura Douglass Schaefer Memorial Scholarship: “Laura Schaefer, HRVHS Class of 2004, loved music and was active in the HRV Music program. Laura participated in Wind Ensemble, Chamber Singers, Madrigals, Jazz Band, and was a founding member of Spectrum. Laura especially enjoyed music tours and musical theater. She went on the music tours of Ireland and Wales, and was in five HRV musicals including: Children of Eden, Les Miserables, and Carousel. To honor Laura’s passion for music, Laura’s brother and sister, with the support of family and many friends in the community, created a memorial scholarship.”

Susanna Blake Gabay Peace Scholarship: “A 2007 Hood River Valley high school graduate, Susanna worked for many years around the causes of peace and justice for all. This scholarship is in her memory for her great works.”

At a recent information gathering at HRVHS for high school seniors interested in the scholarships, one student asked the counselor where she should write her personal “sob story.” Indeed, she is not the only one at our high school with a wrenching personal narrative. In my work as an elementary school teacher, and now as an Aspire volunteer at the high school, I have been startled and in awe of the stories students tell. There are stories of families split apart by deportation, domestic violence, and death. Stories of homelessness. Stories of children holding down almost full-time jobs while maintaining high grades. Stories of resilience in the face of adversity. And finally, stories of hopes and dreams. Thanks to the generosity of local citizens, and armed with the financial backing of these local funds, college can become a reality, and not merely a dream, for these deserving students. A list of scholarships is available through the HRVHS counseling office. Completed scholarship applications are due in the HRVHS counseling office by Monday, April 4. The awards night will take place Wednesday, May 25 at 7 p.m. in the HRVHS Bowe Theater.

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