There were lots of smiles. Excited claps. Some nerves showing in fumbling fingers and stumbled words.
And there were some tears, too, when Juliana Cameron stepped on stage and learned she was receiving a $15,000 scholarship from the Marysville Rotary Education Foundation (Washington, US — District 5050).
Cameron paused with her hands over her mouth, trying to regain her composure. “Um, sorry — kind of shocked,” she said, before handing back the microphone and telling Foundation President Lori Butner more than once, “Thank you so much.”
The Marysville Rotary Club on Wednesday night handed out $121,900 in scholarships to 47 teenagers.
“It’s so inspiring to think these are the kids of the future,” said Gayl Spilman of the Marysville Rotary Education Foundation. “It’s such an honour to be part of this.”
There was Kennedy Lentini, who lives with her aunt and knows the value of her $10,000 award as she pays her way through Eastern Washington University to study marketing.
“It was such a surprise,” said Lentini, who put a hand over her mouth when she heard the amount. “It’s a huge help.”
There was Abraham Lopez, who needed $10,000 to cover his first year of engineering studies at Western Washington University, and got it filled that night.
“I went back to my seat and was still shaking a little,” Lopez said. His mom leaned over.
“Yeah, ten thousand. … She couldn’t believe it either,” he said.
High school counsellors were in attendance, offering fist pumps and high-fives. And parents and grandparents applauded, proud of their kids and happy for the civic group’s support.
“It took my breath away,” said Loree Cameron, Juliana’s mom. “She’s a great kid, works hard, and has overcome a lot this last year.”
Her husband Mike Cameron died of cancer a year earlier, just two months after the diagnosis. Juliana was with her father, but also stuck to her studies.
He didn’t get to see his daughter accept the scholarship, and he won’t see her in cap and gown next month, but Juliana said she knew what his reaction would be if he could be there.
“He’d be smiling so big. He’d be proud of me,” she said.
Rotary Clubs in Snohomish County hand out roughly a half-million dollars in scholarships to graduating seniors and college students each year.
Marysville is the second club to top the $100,000 mark.
The Rotary Club of Everett (Washington, US — District 5050) on Monday awarded $182,700 in scholarships to 41 young people, plus a total of $5,000 in gift cards to help 10 low-income graduating seniors buy graduation and school supplies.
In Everett, four students won top awards, each worth $19,000 over four years.
Cascade High School’s Bethany Kassala was among them.
Along with other scholarships, the academic ace now has all of her education paid for, with enough left over to study abroad in Japan or South Korea, hot spots for the computer science field she’s entering.
She has direct admittance to the computer science and engineering school at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“I feel really excited,” Kassala said. “I almost feel as though my life is laid out for me. It’s almost a breeze going through it from now on. I’m excited to start that next chapter in my life.”
Ben Seaberg, of Everett High, also won one of the big Anthony G Bozich Memorial Scholarships.
Like other students, he didn’t know the amount of the award he was getting until he heard his name called from the stage at the ceremony.
“It was surreal,” Seaberg said. “It was as if my prayers had been answered.”
“And it was a humbling experience to be put in that situation. I couldn’t thank the Rotary enough.”
Smaller awards were appreciated, too.
Taylor Wold, from Everett High School, won a one-year $1,000 Moss Adams scholarship. She plans to study business accounting at Grand Canyon University in Arizona this fall.
“I just love math and numbers,” Wold said. “Even being by a desk is fine by me.”
And she appreciates the math on this one. “Anything helps lessen those loans.”
The same thing was on the mind of Mackenzi Chapman, a Marysville Pilchuck senior who is staring down some big bills to come on her path to a medical field.
The Marysville award is flexible, too, allowing her to apply it when she needs it most over the next three years.
“It’s really a blessing,” she said.
Rotary members, business sponsors and individual donors pay for the awards.
In Marysville, students are ranked based on financial need, as well as academics, community involvement and an essay about Rotary and its values, including its motto to put “Service Above Self.”
In Everett, school counselors help identify students, who fill out applications and are then interviewed by Rotary Club members, who make the final decisions on awards.
“Quite frankly every one of them we interviewed was quite impressive,” said Russ Hermes, an Everett attorney who was on an review team.
Students’ stories were “amazing,” “compelling,” “ridiculously smart.”
“These kids are almost unstoppable,” Hermes said.
Many were doing amazing academic work, often at the college level, all while staying busy with sports or community service.
Hermes was most gratified, however, to be able to give an award to every Everett student in the AVID program who applied.
AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a college-preparatory programme for students who show academic promise but are of below-average income or other reduced means.
Those kids don’t always have the top grades or best SAT scores. But they have potential, and drive, Hermes said. And now they have a helping hand.
“I learned the hard way to stay street smart in a place where that’s the only thing you have,” wrote Alexis Luna, of Cascade High, in his application for an AVID scholarship.
The son of immigrant parents — who never reached high school in their own education — now plans to head to Central Washington University.
A $1,000 scholarship from the Rotary will help him get there.