02-18-12: Puyallup Schools Foundation: Encouraging education one student at a time
02-18-12: Puyallup Schools Foundation: Encouraging education one student at a ti

For more than two decades, the Puyallup Schools Foundation has awarded thousands of dollars of scholarships to high school seniors to help them pursue post-secondary education.

The amount awarded has more than doubled in the past decade from $30,000 10 years ago to more than $71,000 in 2011.

The number of scholarships has also significantly increased as more community members give to the Foundation to help students continue their learning beyond high school.

Last June, 66 students received money through the Foundation. Of those, 57 advanced to four-year colleges or universities, five moved on to two-year community colleges, and four enrolled in vocational-technical colleges.

Donors give in a variety of ways, including memorials for loved ones, and gifts for special occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Others donate money, sometimes anonymously, simply to support students, said Puyallup Schools Foundation President Gary Larson. Students apply for Foundation scholarships through their high school career and counseling centers.

While most of the scholarships are merit-based, the Foundation has worked in recent years to expand eligibility to recognize financial need. The number of scholarships open to students pursuing community or vocational-technical colleges has also increased.

“Education is so important to broaden a student’s perspective on life,” Larson said. “We have kids who are destined to do good or great things for the country and our world.”

Tammy Sittnick

It has been 17 years since her high school graduation, but Tammy Sittnick remembers her reaction to receiving a $3,000 high school scholarship as if it were yesterday.

“Financially, I knew it would help defray my college costs,” said the 1995 Puyallup High graduate. “But beyond that, it felt profound to know there were people investing in me and my education.”

Sittnick was one of the first students to receive the Louise A. Lyon scholarship, created shortly after the Foundation formed in 1989.

The award is given annually to a graduating female from Puyallup High who plans to attend a community or four-year college and who is of “high personal character and scholastic aptitude.”

The donor, who died last September, moved to Puyallup in 1920, attended Spinning School, and graduated from Puyallup High in 1930. She had a long career in intelligence, including overseas assignments during and after World War II.

As she pursued a history degree at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Sittnick said she felt a heightened sense of responsibility to her scholarship donor.

“Someone is investing themselves in you,” Sittnick said. “I had a responsibility to do right by her.”

Sittnick spent a semester of her junior year in college studying in France and a summer at American University in Washington, D.C. While there, she interned at the State Department.

It was during her time in the nation’s capital that Sittnick met Lyon for the first time. The two had corresponded frequently since Sittnick received the scholarship, and they arranged to meet over lunch once they learned they lived near one another.

“It was fascinating to meet her,” Sittnick said, “especially considering our mutual interest in international relations. She was a fascinating woman.”

After college graduation, Sittnick went to work as an adviser and consultant for a small international relations consulting firm in Washington, D.C. The firm’s clients included foreign governments and embassies.

She returned to Seattle four years later to pursue a law degree at the University of Washington, graduated with a JD degree in 2006, and was hired at Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle.

The former Viking focused on labor and employment law and represented national and international companies, including Boeing and Microsoft.

Last April, Sittnick moved into her most recent role as an attorney for Microsoft on the company’s main Redmond campus. She specializes in employment law and has done some pro bono work (free for those in need) representing juveniles in immigration proceedings.

Sittnick was among those who gathered last fall at Lyon’s graveside service in Puyallup. “I am just so grateful for what she did and grateful for the opportunity to have developed a personal relationship with her.”

Sittnick also praised the Puyallup Schools Foundation for its work in helping to jumpstart students’ careers. “All of these efforts do matter,” she said. “It’s important work.”

Nikalas Conroy-Dillard

Nikalas Conroy-Dillard depended on scholarship money to go to college.

Thanks to several scholarships, including one sizable amount from the Puyallup Schools Foundation, the 19-year-old is pursuing a career in graphic design as a freshman this year at Pierce College in Puyallup.

“Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to go to Pierce,” Conroy-Dilllard said.

The 2011 Puyallup High School graduate said he paid for his first quarter of tuition and books with the $1,000 he received from the Dr. John Parrish Memorial Scholarship.
The scholarship is awarded based on scholastic achievement, good character, and good citizenship.

Parrish and his wife, Ann, set up the scholarship shortly before his death in November 2003 — just one month after he was diagnosed with esophageal carcinoma.

Ann, a long-time volunteer with the Puyallup Schools Foundation, said the family gave a $500 scholarship the first year (2004) and $1,000 a year ever since. She and their six children each donate to the scholarship fund in lieu of buying holiday gifts for everyone in the family.

“Their dad strongly believed in education, and so do I,” Ann said.

She joined the Foundation the year it was formed and spent the next 20 years helping in roles including secretary, vice president, and chair of the scholarship committee.

“It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” she said. “To see these young people come in to be interviewed, and to see them so poised and with such positive attitudes, is the most gratifying work ever.”

As Conroy-Dillard walked across the Pierce College campus last fall, he described his interests and his career plans.

The teen said he plans to spend his first two years at Pierce College taking the prerequisite classes he needs to transfer to Pacific Lutheran University.

His passion for graphic design, he said, began when he attended Mt. View Elementary. Star Wars was gaining in popularity, and he remembers being fascinated by George Lucas’s digital effects.

This interest in graphic arts continued at Edgemont Junior High, where he enrolled in art classes and learned everything he could about color, design, perspective, and more.

In high school, Conroy-Dillard enrolled in the school’s Web design and digital photography classes.

Conroy-Dilllard also designed several websites, both for class assignments and for a community experience project.

He was recognized for his talents by being selected in his senior year to receive the Dan Vesey Memorial Art Scholarship.

Whether he is creating a new website for a client or developing a colorful advertisement, Conroy-Dillard said he enjoys the creativity and expression involved in graphic design.

He said he is grateful to the Puyallup Schools Foundation for providing the financial assistance to help him move forward on his career path.

“I worked hard in school, and this scholarship made a difference in me making a smooth transition into college,” he said.

Janelle Stavig

Not long after enrolling in her first year of French as a tenth grader, Janelle Stavig was convinced she would study the language for years to come and make it part of her career path.

The sophomore not only excelled in the class — she loved speaking the language.

Even in that first year of high school, Stavig began to plan for the day she would visit France and immerse herself in the language and culture.

She edged closer to fulfilling her dream in her senior year when, just before graduation, she learned that she was the recipient of one of the largest financial scholarships given through the Puyallup Schools Foundation.

The 2007 Rogers High School graduate was selected to receive the $5,000 Gertrude Hansen-Kurt Bargmeyer Scholarship.

The scholarship, established by former Puyallup doctor Johann Duenhoelter, is given annually by the Foundation to a graduating senior in the Puyallup School District who has excelled in the study of foreign language during high school.

The recipient also is someone who plans to attend an American university-sponsored study abroad program as part the college curriculum “for the purpose of enhancing and continuing his or her study of foreign language, as well as his or her knowledge of the customs of the country in which he or she studies.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary since Duenhoelter started the scholarship in honor of two of his former Puyallup High School teachers.

Duenhoelter grew up in Germany, came to the United States in 1954 as Puyallup High’s first foreign exchange student, and spent nearly two decades practicing medicine.

He opened his obstetrics and gynecology practice in downtown Puyallup in 1979 and delivered 4,800 babies by the time he retired in 1997.

He credits Hansen, who was his high school English and speech teacher, and Bargmeyer, who was director of guidance, for helping him to adjust to this country when he arrived in his senior year as a teenager from post-war Germany.

Duenhoelter kept in touch with Hansen until her death last year, and he continues to be friends with Bargmeyer.

The former doctor is a worldwide traveler who speaks fluent English and German, and some French and Spanish.

“I know how much my travel has enriched my own life, and I know how it can enrich students’ lives,” he said.

“The scholarship and travel abroad will help them gain a deeper understanding of their language and, more importantly, an understanding for the culture of the countries they visit.”

Stavig traveled to France during her junior year at Pacific Lutheran University. She spent nearly four months living with a host family in Nantes, a city in western France.

During her time abroad, she took college classes in French literature, grammar, the European Union, and United States, French, and Israel relations.

Beyond her studies, she said, “I wanted to learn how families go about their daily lives and how France is interconnected with other European countries.”

Stavig graduated last May from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in French and political science. She is seeking a job with an international consulate or the foreign service.

“I can’t express how grateful I am for the opportunities I was given,” she said. “I am so thankful to the doctor for making the scholarship possible.”

About the Foundation

The Puyallup Schools Foundation is a nonprofit organization that receives charitable, tax-deductible donations for the educational needs of Puyallup School District students.

The Foundation is operated by a 15- member Board of Directors, made up of community volunteers and ex officio members who represent the Puyallup School District and its high schools.

Its members have the responsibility to manage the investment and distribution of available money to benefit as many student scholars as possible each year. Scholarships range from several hundred dollars to $5,000.

In addition to providing scholarships, the Foundation receives donations and administers grants for programs and projects that enhance student learning.

The Foundation is an affiliate of Dollars for Scholars, a national network of community-based scholarship foundations.

Making a donation

The Foundation is set up to accept and manage assets including cash, appreciated securities, closely held stock, real property, and retirement funds.

Gifts can be designated for a general endowment fund, as a one-time or annual scholarship, or as a named endowed scholarship.

The Foundation invests and manages the funds, selects recipients if needed, and completes the paperwork necessary to transfer scholarship money to a school or college of the recipient’s choice. A list of 2010-11 Foundation scholarships is on the school district website.

For more information, contact the Puyallup Schools Foundation at P.O. Box 55, Puyallup, WA 98371 or call President Gary Larson at (253) 848-1503.

Foundation facts

  • Incorporated: 1989
  • Current Assets: $2,080,000
  • Volunteer Board Members: 15
  • 2011 Recipients: 66
  • 2011 Scholarships Awarded: $71,100