It Takes a Good Foundation

Friday, June 20, 2008

Education is a lot like the construction of a building. If you want it to be good, it has to be built upon a "good foundation." Graduating students from the Nevada R-5 School District, are blessed to have such a foundation.

This foundation's purpose is to provide after high school support for the education of our local graduates. Nothing is more important, than that of financial assistance.

Small colleges in our area such as Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State, have seen dramatic increases in their costs to students in recent years. Currently at these institutions it costs an undergraduate student between $12,000 and $16,000 per year for room, board, and tuition.

If a student prefers to attend the University of Missouri, that cost rises to an average of nearly $21,000 annually.

Few families can afford these costs alone. Many have to take out school loans. Even then the long term costs have risen to a point where a significant number now wonder if they can afford college at all.

Beginning in 1996, a group of concerned parents, educators, and private citizens here in Nevada initiated a plan to address this problem for our local students. The result was the inception of a new program that was called the "Nevada High School Scholarship Foundation." The Scholarship Foundation has as it's stated goals the following: I. Increase the number of contributions to the Scholarship Foundation from local industries, businesses, clubs, individuals, and memorials.

II. Increase the amount of money given locally to the Nevada High School graduates for post secondary education.

III. Recognize the achievements of graduating seniors.

IV. Increase student awareness of the support of their community.

V. Recognize Foundation donors.

The foundation has a five member Scholarship Committee made up of community members and school personnel.

This committee is actively involved in the solicitation and disbursement of scholarship funds.

One hundred percent of donations are awarded to students. That's very important. When you give to other charitable organizations, there are often administrative costs that eat up much of the donations.

The current five community committee members are: Brian Bloom, Carol Branham, Joy Hawks, Marty Miller, and Wayne Reinert. It was their task along with personnel from the Nevada R-5 School District, to award this years Scholarships. They also honor all the various donors at a special event.

Initially the Senior Recognition Program announced scholarships and other awards during the practice for graduation. Parents and donors were not present.

After the inception of the Foundation, these accolades and scholarship presentations were moved to a night program. This program is open to the public.

Of this year's 150 graduating seniors at Nevada, 105 are planning to go forward and complete further post high school studies. From this group, 95 seniors will receive some form of scholarship assistance.

In 2008, the Foundation managed to increase its total Foundation funding from $130,000 in 2007 to over $150,000 this year. It should be noted, that this amount far exceeds that for most school districts our size in Missouri.

In a time when the economy has a less than rosy outlook, this is a testament to the supporters of education in our community. The continued need for education excellence has remained a priority for our town and schools.

This year's event was held on Friday night, May 16.

An appreciation dinner began the evening to honor all the scholarship donors. After the dinner, the presentation of local scholarships followed.

Additional acknowledgments were announced for, college and scholastic awards based on achievement. Also presented were special awards for military and athletic performances. Each year an outstanding senior boy and girl award is announced. These are followed by the recognition of honors diploma students. The next presentation is for academic excellence "Hall of Fame" awards. Then the years graduating top 10 percent are presented to the crowd.

The final presentation of scholastic awards goes to the valedictorian and salutatorian. This year there were actually three individuals tied for valedictorian.

They were Anthony Clausen, Molly Ferree, and Dan Lovinger. The 2008 Salutatorian was Brittni Ebrecht.

In talking with school officials, their main concern was that the public was not always aware of the names of these wonderful scholarship donors. It is the ongoing generosity of these donors that allows our community to award these much needed scholarships year after year.

There are many long standing scholarships that have been in place for many years. These include: the Melinda Guthrie Memorial, Class of 1965, MFA-Producers Grain of Nevada, American Legion Local Ladies Auxiliary, Bradley Wyatt Chrisenberry Memorial, Diana's, Larry Testman Track, JW Swearingen Golf Memorial, FW Bill Renwick Memorial, and Rotary, just to name a few.

Eighty percent of the scholarships go through the foundation.

There are some that are annual awards, and some that are perpetual. These use only the interest earned for their annual scholarship.This year saw some new scholarships initiated. These include the Hearl Scism Memorial, Ross Garton Memorial, Joshua Stratman Memorial, Lt. Gov. William C. Phelps and Joanne Phelps Leadership and Scholarship Award, Ruth Mendenhall memorial, Mr. Mac Marmoreal (honoring Hoe McHugh and Bill & Harriet Neil): LF Richardson Foundation, Sports Plus, J. Franklin Nicholas Memorial, Hardee's, The Classes of '47, '77, '82, Many people these days regularly send a donation to the foundation in lieu of flowers as a memorial to honor the passing of a friend or family member who attended school in Nevada. Each of these contributions is appreciated and necessary for the foundation to continue to grow and meet the needs of the future.

Our founding fathers felt that education was the bedrock upon which we would build our democracy. In this new century, our community has found a way to insure that our youth have access to the best education available. It is the responsibility of us all regardless of age or situation in life, to support such worthy programs as the "Nevada Scholarship Foundation." Be sure to become a donor even if your gift is small.

More importantly, say thanks to the many people who donate each year so that we can continue to have affordable education for our graduating youth.