OXFORD – Graduating Talawanda High School seniors given scholarships through the Greater Oxford Community Foundation were treated to an ice cream party to celebrate, two days prior to their graduation ceremony.
The party was intended to congratulate the scholarship winners as well as celebrate their accomplishments of getting through their high school careers in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foundation Executive Director Betsy Hope said the scholarships they oversee offer Talawanda graduates a wide range of support from varied community sources.
“The scholarship total was $60,000 this year, more than ever for graduating Talawanda seniors. There are 38 different scholarships, established by different donors to reflect the donor’s passion. Some are given to remember people who have passed away,” said Hope. “Some scholarships honor people still working in a specific field or for kids going into a specific field. Some are just for Miami University. Scholarships can be for about anything the donor wants. We honor the donor’s wishes.”
That local total was part of the overall amount the 239 members of the class of 2022 received, which was in excess of $5.4 million. Some of that money will not be able to be collected as some graduates received scholarship offers from several colleges and can get the money only from the one they choose to attend.
Hope said the foundation wanted to say a special thank you to the scholarship recipients and hit on the idea of the ice cream social, dubbed the Scholarship Celebration Station. A small-scale event was held last year for the first time but designed to keep everyone safe in the pandemic. This year, the graduates got to spend time with each other, meet the donors of the scholarships they received and enjoy not only ice cream but have fun with music and a photo booth to capture those memories.
Hope said they had earlier surprised those scholarship recipients while the Senior Awards Night program was happening. While that program was going on at the high school, she said volunteers were out putting signs in the yards of recipients so they could see the greeting when they returned home.
“With the yard signs, we wanted to share the sense of honor and community,” she said.
The variety of types of issues addressed by the local scholarships was illustrated by Hope, who cited some examples, saying some of them address attributes such as kindness and diversity. In the past, scholarships focused on those seniors with grade point averages of 4.0 or higher but now many look at character traits.
One of the scholarships presented by the foundation was the Mitzie Statum “Spirit of Goodwill” Memorial Scholarship awarded to a special needs student demonstrating good will toward classmates and positive relationships.
The Gene Burton Minority Scholarship is given to a graduating senior who has been disadvantaged by race, creed, color, cultural background or sexual orientation.
Several scholarships relate to education and are geared to students planning to enter the education field. Some examples are the Marge and Al Cornett Scholarship, the Melford T. Edwards Excellence in Education Scholarship and the Dorothy Blankenship Memorial Scholarship for Music.
The Nancy Kane Continuing Education award is aimed at helping those who have not completed high school but want to do so through adult education programs.
Another trend, Hope noted, was a growing emphasis on supporting students planning to attend a two-year college program for training in a variety of trades, rather than a four-year college.
One of their scholarships in that area is the Logan David Keeler Memorial Scholarship aimed at helping students going to a vocational, technical or trade school looking for a career in a host of possible areas including welding, agriculture, construction or building trades or even dental or medical technician.
“This is a fantastic path for young people. Now, more than ever, there are more scholarships for two-year programs,” Hope said. “My daughter is an LPN. She started out to be a teacher but changed paths. Now, she is a Hospice nurse.”
Some of the foundation’s scholarships are set up for special purposes or to honor those who have played a role in the lives of others.
The Marjorie and Ned Webb Writing Award is presented to students selected by the English Department at the high school as having produced good work over four years. The Webbs also sponsor the Dale Plank Award named for the now-retired teacher and coach.
Hope shared a message from Ned Webb she received the day after the ice cream social in which he expresses appreciation for the invitation to be part of the event.
He wrote: “I (and I assume Marge will agree with the general tone of this, if not the specifics) want to thank Oxford Community Foundation for hosting the meet-scholarship-winners social yesterday and inviting us. It was fun, and we really enjoyed getting to meet the winners. They all Bella, Harrison Cradduck, and Lucy Wang seem really nice, personable young people. Solid and talented, the kind that gives me hope for the future, hope that someday all children can go – and parents can send them – to school without fear they’ll be slaughtered.”
Bob Carmean, president of the foundation’s board of directors said they enjoy a dual role providing the outlet for the donors’ wishes and giving to the graduating seniors of the community.
“We are just proud we can reflect the donors’ passion about helping our community students,” Carmean said.
Hope echoed that, saying, “We are investing in the future. That’s a positive, wonderful thing.”
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