CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The local chapter of a nationally-known philanthropic organization last week awarded 22 scholarships to students in the Shenendehowa School District based on their school work, community service, and goals and aspirations.
This was the 21st year that Dollars for Scholars, Shenendehowa Chapter has held an award ceremony recognizing students’ achievements. The June 9 ceremony was held in-person in the Clifton Park Adult Community Center. It drew an audience of approximately 75 people, mainly recipients’ family members.
Unlike last year’s ceremony which was held outside when mask wearing was just becoming the norm, this event was devoid of masks.
Shenendehowa Dollars for Scholars is one chapter of the much larger Scholarship America, a Minnesota-based American philanthropic organization that assists communities, corporations, foundations and individuals with fundraising, managing and awarding scholarships to students.
The local chapter was established in 2001 by a handful of southern Saratoga County residents living in the Shen School District who believed there should be a local scholarship body to recognize all the hard work students were putting into their academic studies, community service, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities.
“The feeling at the time was, why not here,” said Kay Hotaling, one of the founders who attended the ceremony.
The annual awards ceremony has two distinct sections, the awarding of independent scholarships, including memorial scholarships and scholarship awards from the chapter itself. The recipients are selected by a committee whose members read the applications as blind entries.
Of the 20 awards presented at last week’s ceremony, 11 were for memorial scholarships and it was here, where families recall departed loved ones with scholarships set up in their names, where emotions were the most evident.
Jessica Bonville was the recipient of two memorial scholarships associated with the field of education. A single person being awarded two scholarships by the chapter had never happened.
Bonville, who will attend SUNY at Cortland where she plans to focus on Special Education, received the Karen Field Memorial Scholarship and the Susan Jill Hughes Memorial Scholarship for Elementary Education.
Hughes was a Shen graduate just starting her career in teaching at Tesago Elementary School when she was killed in an auto accident on her way to teach her class. Karen Field was a Special Education aide in Arongen Elementary School when she passed away due to a medical condition.
In accepting the Field Award, Bonville, who attended Arongen, recalled missing Field in the classroom when her illness began taking its toll.
“I don’t remember too much from first grade obviously but I do remember how caring and kind Mrs. Field was,” Bonville said. “We, as kids, didn’t know what was going on with her missing class but I do recall that I missed her every day that she was gone and speaking to my friends about it and saying I hoped she’d come back. I hope I can inspire my future students as much as she did.”
In accepting the Susan Hughes Award Bonville noted she never met Hughes as she had Field but was very proud that so many people connected to the Dollars for Scholars chapter believe in her and that she will be successful in her goal of teaching Special Education.
Another emotional moment came during the awarding of the Nicole Lee Memorial Scholarship. Lee was a Shen student when she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 13. After a three-year battle, she passed away at 16. The family requested in its award criteria that the recipient show how they have risen above challenges and adversity to live their best life.
The Lee Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Emma Jane Andrus. Andrus plans to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy where she will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering with the goal of becoming a pilot and officer in the Coast Guard.
“This scholarship was set up to carry on Nicole’s legacy and share her engaging spirit, her passion for others, her determination through the adversity and the challenges she faced with dignity, grace, and unstoppable optimism,” Andrus said in accepting the award. “I never got to meet Nicole but I am proud to carry on her legacy of hope and optimism each time I wear the (Coast Guard) uniform.”
New this year was a memorial scholarship for Cameron Furey, a 2015 Shen graduate who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 23 in 2020. He was a graduate of Hudson Valley Community College, a Ford Mustang enthusiast and a member of the Gray Mustang Club.
The award’s recipient was Caleb Voges, a Shen senior who discovered an interest in polymers in his eighth grade chemistry class. Voges plans to attend Grove City College in Pennsylvania where he will major in chemistry with a chemical engineering minor.
As a three-year member of Shen’s Team 20 Robotics club, Voges said he is planning to work in the college’s metal and woodshop where they have annual go-kart building competitions with other colleges.
“It is so sad that this scholarship came about from someone’s death,” he said turning to the Furey family. “I hope I am honoring Cameron by accepting this award. Thank you.”