By Stacee Sledge
The Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia recently awarded $1,000 scholarships to eight local graduating seniors – with four more to be granted later this month.
According to Chris Townley, Board member and Scholarship Committee Chair, the Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia focuses its scholarship funds on smaller area schools.
“Within our club we try to focus on the smaller schools in Southern Thurston County,” says Townley. “We even pick up one very little school, Oakville, which is actually in Grays Harbor.”
The goal of Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia in awarding the scholarships is simple: To make a difference in the lives of these students.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders who volunteer their time to provide humanitarian service and help build goodwill and peace at the international, national, and community level.
Rotary’s global membership is approximately 1.2 million men and women belonging to more than 33,000 Rotary organizations. Thurston County has seven distinct Rotary clubs.
Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia primarily focuses its efforts on the community level. A recent auction raised approximately $33,000 for SafePlace.
Awarding scholarships to local students is another way Rotary works to benefit the community. “We try to help kids get a leg up and get them on their way to whatever it is they want to do for the rest of their lives,” says Townley.
This year’s recipients are graduating seniors from Oakville High School, Rainier High School, Rochester High School, New Market Skills Center, and Tenino High School. Eight scholarships have been awarded, with four more to be granted soon.
The application process consists of 12 questions, including a 500-word essay, and the student’s transcripts.
“The essay outlines a bit of their background,” says Townley, “where they want to go and what they want to do, some of their activities and achievements.”
Transcripts are requested not so the committee can see how well students are doing in school, but to see if they are slowly but surely working in a purposeful direction. “To see if they have the right stuff to keep going forward and just need a boost or helping hand,” Townley explains.
Scholarship awards are not based on athletics or grades. The committee of eight Rotary members reviews the applications and looks for recipients they believe will benefit most from the organization’s help.
Some of the scholarship recipients will start off at the community college level, and then move on.
“We’ve got kids going all over,” says Townley, “to Western Washington University, the University of Washington, Grays Harbor, Saint Martin’s, Linfield College down in Oregon, Central, and Centralia.”
Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia currently has about 65 members. “If you’re in Rotary, you’re expected to attend and play an active role, which I love. It’s truly a service club,” says Townley.
The list of local accomplishments, on top of the yearly scholarships, is long. From assisting with housing for the homeless to being instrumental in helping create the new park on West Bay Drive, Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia sticks to its humanitarian mission.
“They’re wonderful people to work with,” Townley says of the group. “It’s just so nice to see that dedication to service.”
To date, this year’s Rotary Club of South Puget Sound-Olympia scholarship recipients are:
Andrew Knotts, Oakville High School
Andrew Williams, Oakville High School
Kaleb J. Merriman, Oakville High School
Cameron Campbell, Rainier High School
Jessica Baker-Reichel, Rainier High School
Sidney L. Black, Rainier High School
Alicia Jazmin Gonzalez, Rochester High School
Rayne Dorsch, Rochester High School