ST. PARIS – The Graham Community Foundation (GCF), an alumni organization that has provided scholarships for two decades to enable Graham High School students to further their education, is pleased to award up to 12 2022 graduates with funding this spring.
The Foundation was established in 2001 by alumni from the six original schools that came together in 1957 to form the Graham District: Christiansburg-Jackson, Terre Haute, Concord, St. Paris, Westville, and Rosewood.
Current GCF President Ron Clark, a 1966 Graham graduate, has led the organization for five years. The foundation consists of a board of trustees made up of 11 community members, all of whom are Graham graduates. Current members include Clark, Secretary Lora Roush, Treasurer Steve Jenkins, Vice President Keith Schaffer, Janie Ludlow, Shari Dill, Wilma Lewis, Hobart Roush, Barb Zook and Tiffany Arnett. The GCF also recognizes an Emeritus Member, John Steinberger, who was one of the original founding directors.
To secure funding, the foundation sends solicitation letters to Graham alumni once a year in November during their giving campaign. Typically, community members donate money in the name of a deceased relative to honor their memory. Once donations are received, the Troy Foundation manages the organization’s investment accounts, governing the funds.
Each year, the GCF distributes one-time scholarships from the main money collected. The first scholarship, given in the spring of 2002, amounted to a donation of $500 made by the original members of the foundation, and each year the dollar amount of the scholarships and the number distributed have increased according to donations from the community.
“We’ve grown, of course, and we’ve had some really good donations from a lot of good people,” Clark said.
Although many members of the original foundation have passed away, Clark points out that it is this group’s initiative that continues to benefit Graham’s seniors today.
“They are the ones who need to be congratulated, because without them it wouldn’t exist,” he said.
Dill, a 1975 Graham alumnus and retired Graham teacher who taught grades 3-6 for 35 years, echoed Clark’s sentiment in honoring former GCF members who were alumni of the six original schools.
One of the main reasons she joined the board was inspiration from her friend and founding GCF member Fonda Lou Eaton, a Johnson-St. Graduated from Paris, and her father-in-law, Kermit Dill, graduated from Concord in 1941 and also a founding member.
Now, Dill leads the selection committee within the GCF and acts as an intermediary between the school and the foundation, collecting applications and distributing the scholarships themselves.
In 2021, eight Graham Elders were shortlisted for an award: seven students received a $1,125 scholarship and one student received a scholarship of the same amount, the first time the foundation has given more than $1,000.
Clark predicts that in 2022, the foundation will reward a dozen students with a one-time gift of $1,000.
All Graham High School seniors are eligible, regardless of their career goals. The GCF offers two distinct opportunities: a grant and a fellowship. The scholarship is reserved for students who plan to follow a professional path after graduation, whether they are looking to enter a trade or technical school, in the field of nursing, to obtain an associate degree or to acquire any other type of specialized training in a specific field of study.
The implementation of this opportunity for students who do not wish to pursue a university education was a choice that the initial committee in 2001 made when evaluating applications. For the past few years, the GCF has provided this grant to students attending welding school, mechanics training, agricultural education, and electrical or carpentry apprenticeships, among other high school educational opportunities.
“We would love to see this publicized more because these business fields are so needed today, and sometimes kids who aren’t on this college path don’t think of applying for a scholarship or a grant,” Dill said.
Also, the scholarship is open to students who plan to enroll in a 4-year university and earn a bachelor’s degree.
To apply for the grant or scholarship, the student must fill in basic information and respond to several prompts, including list of recent activities related to career and education goals, list of honors, awards, and personal characteristics, and crafting a 200 word essay on why the student wishes to pursue further education. Additional documentation – an official GHS transcript, two letters of recommendation from teachers, and a recent original photograph – must all be submitted with the application for it to be considered.
After selection, to receive the funding, the student must enroll full-time in an accredited institution of higher education after high school. The application deadline is March 22, 2022 and the award is only eligible for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Once the submission period is over, members of the GCF committee evaluate the applications. Dill explains that, personally, she looks for students who are well-rounded in multiple endeavors both inside and outside of school. Straight A’s are not a requirement, but the committee considers athletic participation, extracurricular activities, community service, decent grades, and work experience.
“They don’t have to be top of their class,” Dill said. “I like to see someone who has had a variety of activities.”
Chosen winners will be announced at the GHS Honors Night ceremony at the end of the school year and presented by GCF administrators alongside other scholarships for which students have competed.
Clark wants these scholarships to motivate and inspire students to continue their education, whether or not they plan to attend a 4-year college. He understands the need to develop a young and skilled workforce due to his more than 20 years of service on the Miami County Pioneer Electric Cooperative Board of Directors.
“Our focus right now is to try to get non-university people to apply, because we probably need those kinds of people more desperately than we need 4-year-old college kids in our hand. work today, in the opinion of the committee,” Clark said. “For years we’ve focused on middle school, and I encourage 4-year-olds to go to school, but I think those kids who are trying to go to technical school or professions feel like they don’t have a chance to get a scholarship against a child who is a very good student. I hope they realize that they can compete. We look at them as seriously as the others .
Dill expresses his desire that the foundation continue to impact and encourage Graham students through the generosity of alumni.
“I hope that when they get a scholarship, it’s not just the money, but also the idea that ‘someone believes in me.’ When they get that, it makes them want to complete a program or a degree,” Dill said. “A thousand dollars is more of a drop in the ocean, but it’s more of the incentive that someone believes in them, and therefore they want to do well for their community.”
For more information about the Graham Community Foundation, how to apply for grants and scholarships, or to donate to the fund, please visit https://thetroyfoundation.org/grahamcommunityfoundation.
Paper applications can be obtained from the Graham High School Guidance Office. If you are interested in serving on the board of the Graham Community Foundation, contact Ron Clark at (937) 653-3217.
Contact Katie Milligan at [email protected]