Opinion

Whatcom View: Community generosity aids Mount Baker High School students

In the early 1990s a group of parents, administrators and teachers met to discuss the establishment of a scholarship foundation for the support of Mount Baker High School graduates. With the cost of any post-high school education on the rise, the goal was to assist students further their education.

For those wanting to start such a foundation, a Washington state seed grant was available to help. The community rallied, donations were made, and the Mount Baker Scholarship Foundation was established with $4,000. The original foundation board included Jerry Hunter, Daryl Smiley, Georgian Head, Rick Stewart, Gail Stewart, Neal Bittner, June Thompson and Art Anderson.

Members of the Mount Baker School District community were made aware of the foundation through newsletters, information given out at class reunions, and the reporting of scholarship awards each year. The donations to the foundation began to grow and the generosity of the school community spread. Graduates of Mount Baker High School from years passed, in remembrance of their special high school years, began to contribute to the foundation. Families who wanted to honor their loved ones, whom they had lost, contacted the foundation for the presentation of scholarships in their names.

Endowed scholarships include Clyde and Judy Denton, Sarah Baisden, Mandy Stavik, Courtney Cadle, Don and Ellen Esterbrook, George and Tina Giarde, Class of 1959, Horn Foundation, Calvin Johnson, William Castles, Louise E. Peterson, Jerry Smoot, Dorothy Massie, Karen Marie Wolschlagel, Dr. Christine Sygitowicz Sherman, Class of 2004, Thorleif Mohn, Kit La Monte, Monsen Endowment, Mount Baker District Staff, Acmenormous/Rothenbuhler, and Thomas Hanson.

Scholarship groups developed, too. School teachers and staff members decided to have amounts taken out of their pay each month to be donated to the foundation for their scholarship. In addition to these, two former classes, from 1959 and 2004, support a scholarship each year. In all, twenty-two scholarships are awarded each year in the name of a former student, teacher, staff member or school/district staff. In addition to these, the foundation awards many unnamed scholarships from the general endowment supported by community members just wanting to contribute.

As we look at the history of the foundation we are amazed at the growth of the endowment and what the generosity of the community has allowed the foundation to fund for our graduates in taking their next steps in life. On awards evening, May 28, 2015, the total endowment in the foundation had reached more than $1.5 million. We were able to fund scholarships totalling more than $95,000. Each student that applies will get at least one scholarship. In 2015, 42 students received scholarships. The awards are sent directly to the institution to which the students have been admitted.

We are grateful for a supportive community and a dedicated board that works at alleviating some of the high cost of higher education. We want to thank the many individuals, organizations and families for making our foundation possible. As Walt Disney said: “The greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cathy Harris is a board member of the Mount Baker Scholarship Foundation. For more information about the foundation online, go to mtbakerscholarship.org, or to Facebook as Mount Baker Scholarship Foundation.

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