As South Sound high school students prepare for graduation and future educational endeavors, the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound seeks to assist these students in achieving their academic and career goals through foundation scholarships. Each scholarship cycle, the foundation awards $175,000 to Thurston, Mason and Lewis County students and with 50 scholarships available, students can find the award that best suits their academic or career interests. 

The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound is a non-profit organization working with private donors to establish, support and maintain charitable causes in the community. The foundation manages 100 separate funds totaling to $26 million in assets. Each fund has a distinct purpose that can support art, education, health care or environmental causes. These funds can be awarded in various forms, including through grants and scholarships.

Each scholarship set up through the Community Foundation has a rich history behind its creation. Generally, a scholarship can be created when a donor approaches the foundation and is motivated to help students accomplish their higher education and career plans.

The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound Scholarships Learning Seed with Scholars 1
Founders of the Learning Seed Scholarship Fund, Marsha and Merritt Long with students. Photo courtesy: Community Foundation of South Puget Sound

“Sometimes that’s a donor who is still alive and has something that they’re passionate about,” explains Mindie Reule, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of the South Sound. “Sometimes that’s honoring someone who’s passed away. For example, we have a scholarship honoring Richard Geiger who passed away a couple of years ago. The scholarship is for a student in Mason County planning to study engineering, because he was an engineer.”

To apply for Community Foundation scholarships, students should first read through each scholarship’s eligibility guidelines. Generally, the foundation’s scholarships are available to graduating seniors throughout the South Puget Sound region, but each scholarship may only be awarded to students who attend certain high schools or plan to study certain subjects. This year’s scholarship cycle is now open, with application deadlines in late March.  

“We have scholarships for students in Thurston County, Lewis County, Mason County, the Olympia School District, North Thurston School District, Rochester and Tenino, so really lots of different options,” says Reule.

recipient of the Learning Seed Scholarship, Kennedi Greenfield
2019 recipient of the Learning Seed Scholarship, Kennedi Greenfield, a student from Black Hills High School. Photo courtesy: Community Foundation of South Puget Sound

Once students have a list of scholarships that they are eligible for and wish to apply to, they will need to fill out a profile form that collects a student’s basic information. A personal statement will also generally be required for each scholarship application. The statement’s prompt may include anticipated courses of study, future career goals and how the scholarship will support those goals. Two letters of recommendation, academic transcripts and a Student Aid Report may also be needed for each scholarship application.

After applications are submitted, a committee comprised of donors and community members are tasked with matching students with scholarships. The committee pays close attention to how close a student fits the scholarship criteria while also weighing personal statements and letters of recommendation.

Most Community Foundation scholarships will only require an online application, but for larger awards, like the John and Opal McGimpsey Scholarship, the process also requires an interview. For students graduating from Olympia High School or North Thurston High School, John and Opal McGimpsey established the scholarship fund in 2006, awarding a student up to $10,000 each year.

The scholarship was created with three specific principles in mind: a student’s education is valuable, scholarships of a higher amount may help diligent students prioritize their education and that students should be eligible for scholarships not just because of high academic achievements, but also because of a strong work ethic and commitment to education.  

Recent additions to the Community Foundation scholarship repertoire are the Andrew William Oakes Scholarship Fund and the Thurston Climate Action Scholarship.

Recipient of the Learning Seed Scholarship, Raihannah Tahir
2019 recipient of the Learning Seed Scholarship, Raihannah Tahir, a student from North Thurston High School. Photo courtesy: Community Foundation of South Puget Sound

The Andrew William Oakes Scholarship Fund was created in the memory of Andy Oakes, an Army veteran and fishing guide who passed away in 2018. For students graduating from Rochester High School or Tenino High School, the scholarship will award up to $3,000. A hallmark of the scholarship is based in Oakes’ passion for sharing blessings, with the hope that scholarship recipients will use their gifts, talents and skills gained through their education to help others.  

New this scholarship cycle, the Thurston Climate Action Scholarship will award up to $4,000 for students attending a public Thurston County high school who intend to pursue climate action or related studies. Established by Jim Lazar, climate-related studies could include subjects ranging from natural science to economics.

“The Thurston Climate Action Scholarship is for someone looking to go to college next year who is interested and involved in climate action,” says Reule. “Specifically, for students who have been involved in some sort of climate change type of club or engagement in high school and are planning to pursue a career related to climate action in college. That can be anything from journalism to political science to hard sciences.”

To learn more about the scholarships available, eligibility, the application process or deadlines visit the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound website.

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