The Peninsula Hawks Scholarship Fund gave $322,000 in grants ranging from $100 to $5,000 to nearly 200 graduating seniors May 17 to help pay for their continuing education.
“It’s a new record high for our organization,” said fund treasurer Deanna Russell.
The fund was started in 1985 by PHS parent Evon Gay to provide a structure for individuals and organizations to make contributions that directly impact students.
Fund president Mary O’Boyle, who works as a paraeducator with high-needs students at Vaughn Elementary, said, “The PHS scholarship program is much more than giving PHS seniors money to continue their education. The seniors get experience in following specific requirements, meeting deadlines and interacting with various adults. My favorite part of the program is reading their thank-you notes to the donors and the pride on their faces when they are acknowledged by our community.”
Hayley Nichols, fund donor chair, graduated from PHS in 1991 and was a recipient herself. “The scholarship was wonderful and I think that what meant the most to me was not the actual money, but that someone chose me, believed in me,” she said.
Nichols attended Central Washington State University, returned to the Gig Harbor area and now runs her own business. Her son is a student at PHS and she was reminded of the fund when she heard about students completing their portfolios to apply. She became a donor and now, three years later, she leads the donor committee.
All PHS graduating students are invited to participate in the program, which is separate from but coordinated with other scholarships managed by the school counseling office. To qualify, students must complete a portfolio, attend the assembly and write a thank-you note to the donor. Each portfolio includes a personal statement; a fact sheet with a summary of such information as schools attended, sports and community activities; two recommendations and three pages to help add a fuller picture of the student. These may be photos of sports activities or awards, or examples of creative writing or artwork. Scholarships can be used for tuition or books. A five-member committee evaluates all of the portfolios and tries to ensure that every student who participates gets an award.
Brendan Greetham graduated from PHS in 2014 after attending Evergreen and Minter elementary schools and is now in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Washington. “I received two scholarships through the Hawks Scholarship Fund,” he said. “One was through the Longbranch Improvement Club and one through Allovus Inc. These scholarships reminded me of how supportive our community is.”
Kevin Pszcszolaf, now at UW, also graduated in 2014 and attended Evergreen, Minter and Vaughn elementary schools and Key Peninsula Middle School. “The Hawks Scholarship gave me the freedom to pursue my academic future how I wanted to,” he said. “I have some breathing room—room to make my own choices without fear of immediately needing to pay for college.”
O’Boyle is especially proud of the Promise Scholarship, she said. Three students from KPMS and Harbor Ridge Middle School, the two middle schools feeding into PHS, are selected by middle school staff as students with potential but who have academic or behavioral issues to overcome. Each of them is guaranteed a $1,000 scholarship if they complete a portfolio and graduate. O’Boyle said the program has been successful with about 80 percent receiving the awards, comparable to the overall graduation rate at PHS.
Nichols said the funding sources include Save Thrift Store, located in a building below the high school campus. It is open six days a week and raises about $60,000 a year. They welcome donations and shoppers. All profits go directly to the general scholarship fund.
Donors may specify the criteria for their scholarship and can select the recipients or have the fund members choose for them.
Many individuals and almost 50 local organizations from the Key Peninsula donate to the fund, including local PTAs, the KP Business Association, KP Lions Club, Angel Guild, Longbranch Improvement Club and the KP Historical Society.
For more information, go to www.phsfund.org.
2017 PHS Key Peninsula Scholarship Recipients
Stephanie Van der Bank