Steamboat students rack up more than $250K in locally funded scholarships
The total amount of scholarships awarded increased by almost 40% over last year
Local donors stepped up for graduates in 2021, awarding more than $250,000 to Steamboat Springs High School graduates, an increase of almost 40% over last year’s awards.
“I think the community empathizes with these teenagers who have had a different, less traditional (experience) than other years and really have stepped up to support them,” said Danica Moss, the high school’s college and career counselor.
While these seniors got an almost-normal graduation ceremony, much of their final year in high school was upended by the pandemic. Seniors at the high school never returned to the classroom for full-time, in-person classes in 2021, with students and teachers finishing in a hybrid model.
The 170 scholarships come from various businesses, nonprofits and other entities in and around Steamboat and have varying eligibility, with some only applying to certain fields of study or involvement in the organization. Moss said not only were there several new scholarships this year, but several previous donors opted to give more this year, often offering multiple scholarships.
“People just really feel for these seniors and what they have missed out on, and they have really been generous,” Moss said.
Moss said someone emailed her after the scholarship night last week to say they wanted to create a new scholarship for next year. While she does solicit scholarships, Moss said it is a mix of that and people reaching out to create a scholarship.
“It is cool for the students, but it is really cool for the community,” Moss said. “There are so many great people who step up to help.”
An anonymous donor gave $5,000 to the Steamboat Springs Educator’s Student Scholarship, allowing eight students to receive a $1,100 scholarship this year. Julie Warnke, a Spanish teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, said reviewing the many applications made her laugh and cry, but most of all feel proud.
“The resilience, the perseverance you have shown through this last over-a-year of the pandemic, it is nothing short of remarkable,” Warnke said while announcing the winners. “You all are extraordinary and truly the rock stars of the pandemic.”
Gillian Morris, president of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs, said local Rotarians collect scholarship donations from members when they share “good news” at the end of meetings every week. She attributed the increased dollars this year to members sharing more, simply to have more human connection in a time when people were apart.
“I think we were all looking for connection in general,” Morris said. “I think people were talking a lot more and sharing a lot more and also being pretty generous with the amount they contributed during good news, because of what everybody was going through.”
For Heart of Steamboat United Methodist Church, a combination of stellar applications and money unspent during the pandemic allowed it to award five scholarships, rather than just one.
“Our scholarship committee was having a really hard time deciding, because they all had amazing applications,” said Maggie Taylor, director of youth and connectional programs for the church. “We looked at our budget and said why don’t we award it to all of them.”
Taylor said each of the applicants showed a financial need, and the church had extra money in its youth fund because of the pandemic, as COVID-19 protocols have prevented them from doing much youth programming.
Two of the new scholarships come from former graduates of the high school.
Class of 2016 graduate Grant Birkinbine said he found it difficult to find his place in the technology world right after college and didn’t want future grads to run into the same problems, so he created an award.
“The scholarship was created so students can explore that space and have that little bit of extra financial padding to take new risks and opportunities,” Birkinbine said, who currently works at Microsoft and said he hoped to offer the scholarship annually going forward.
Lili Pearce, a 2019 graduate, created a scholarship titled Power In Diversity to highlight and recognize students of a diverse background, whether they be a person of color, disabled or identify as queer.
“Throughout the heat of coronavirus, I really recognized the importance of mutual aid coming from local communities, and I wanted to take this opportunity to pay things forward,” Pearce said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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