Local organizations award Basalt seniors with more than $300,000 in college scholarships
The culmination of a student’s high school career often conjures a range of emotions that spans from elated to melancholic.
Despite where one may lie on this spectrum, one sentiment that many high school students and their families cannot escape is the stress of financing a college education.
This week, 27 local organizations helped alleviate this concern for 33 Basalt High School seniors and their families as part of the high school’s scholarship awards ceremony, which took place at the Wheeler Opera House on Tuesday evening.
Altogether, the 27 organizations — including nonprofits, memorial funds and service groups — granted more than $300,000 in college scholarship funds to Basalt High School students this year.
“The scholarships are incredibly needed and can often make the difference in a student attending college,” Basalt High School college counselor Elizabeth Penzel said.
Along with financial need, Basalt seniors receive scholarships for a variety of reasons ranging from students’ merit to their specific interests and involvements, said Basalt Education Foundation scholarship committee member Kara Williams.
The Buddy Program, for instance, grants scholarships to Basalt students who have served as Big Buddies to youth at Basalt elementary and middle schools, while the Kathryn M. Long Memorial Student Scholarship grants scholarship funds to aspiring teachers.
“We appreciate students who have made the most of their time at Basalt High School, getting involved in different activities and volunteering their time to make the school or the greater Basalt community a better place,” said Williams, who also is a parent of a sophomore at Basalt High School and an eighth-grader at Basalt Middle School. “We also look at who might be a great representation of Basalt at their respective colleges.”
Basalt High School senior Megan Sherry said the four scholarships she received Tuesday not only eliminated a lot of financial stress for herself and her parents but also felt like a reward for the time she’s dedicated to her school over the years.
In addition to serving as one of Basalt High School’s two “heads,” which she equated with her school’s version of a student body president, Sherry’s involvement extends from the volleyball court to the chamber choir group
She also is a secretary for the National Honor Society chapter as well as a member of the high school’s student leadership group that is responsible for organizing events like pep rallies.
Seniors must apply for the scholarships and are typically invited to the ceremony knowing they have received at least one scholarship, though they do not know from which organization or in what amount, which adds another element of excitement to the scholarship ceremony, Williams said.
In addition to applications, some organizations require students to write supplemental essays while others necessitate in-person interviews.
To be considered for the Colorado 500 scholarship, for instance, students must write an essay that describes how they feel about their community, family and faith, according to Colorado 500 president and scholarship administrator Janet Lohman.
The Colorado 500 is a Basalt-based foundation that hosts two off-road motorcycle rides annually and donates 100 percent of its profit to organizations throughout the state, Lohman said.
Since 1993, Colorado 500 has granted 73 scholarships to Basalt High School seniors.
“We try to pick kids that would really make a difference and who really need the help,” Lohman said. “Kids that normally wouldn’t be able to go to college without our help.”
This year, the organization awarded six Basalt seniors with scholarships, totaling $43,000 in college funds.
Another longtime Basalt High School donor is the Light Ranch at Old Snowmass Charitable Trust, which has granted more than half a million dollars to local graduates since its inception in 1997, Williams said.
Penzel said she is “blown away” by the generosity and support that local organizations show Basalt High School seniors.
“These organizations could certainly spend their money elsewhere, but they choose to help lessen the financial burden of college for so many Basalt families,” Williams said. “And that is heartwarming.”
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