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06-17-14: Community invests in students through annual scholarships
06-17-14: Community invests in students through annual scholarships
Posted on 06/25/2014

The generosity of local service clubs, foundations, and individuals has made it possible for hundreds of graduating seniors to further their education each year after high school.


The list of contributors is long, and many have spent the past several decades or more helping students pursue their dreams at vocational, technical, two-year, and four-year colleges or universities.


No matter what the dollar amount, students are quick to offer their gratitude. Each scholarship is significant, they say, and in some cases can make or break whether or not they will be able to afford post-secondary education.


For some, the award pays for a chunk of their tuition. For others, it pays for books or supplies. Most important, students say, is the feeling of satisfaction they get from having received such an honor.


"It makes me feel appreciated knowing someone believed in me enough to give me the award," said Jason Rogers, a 2012 Emerald Ridge High graduate. Rogers received a $1,000 Tom Brown Memorial Scholarship from the Puyallup Schools Foundation and attends Washington State University in Pullman (read more about Rogers further down in this article).


The Puyallup Schools Foundation awarded more than $172,600 to 96 graduating seniors in the Class of 2013. This year, the Foundation expects to award another $145,000 worth of scholarships to nearly 100 students.


Other major scholarship contributors include the Washington State Fair Foundation, as well as area service clubs and civic groups such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Eagles, and Elks.


This year, for example, the Washington State Fair Foundation will award a total of $31,000 to 12 Puyallup School District seniors. The award total is up from $29,000 in 2013.


The Kiwanis Club of Puyallup, which has given out scholarships for several decades, will award nearly $13,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors in the Class of 2014. The local Daffodil Valley Kiwanis Club and Kiwanis Club of Puyallup Sunrisers also sponsor several annual scholarships.


Another long-time supporter of schools, the Puyallup South Hill Rotary Club, will award a total of $10,000 in scholarships this year. Additionally, in recent years the club set up an endowment at Pierce College to fund a $1,000 scholarship for a student already enrolled there who is selected by the college.


The district thanked service club representatives for their support of education during a luncheon last month at Pioneer Park Pavilion in Puyallup. The event featured performances by student musicians and table conversations led by high school leadership students.


Parent teacher associations and booster clubs from schools throughout the district are also strong supporters of annual scholarships, as are Philanthropic and Educational Organization (P.E.O.) chapters, Altrusa International of Puyallup Valley, the Puyallup Education Association, area businesses, and a host of individual donors.


Many individual donors have set up trusts in memory of family members who lived and often worked in the Puyallup School District.


Some of the awards are merit-based, while others seek to help students with financial need.


However, support is not in dollars alone. Service groups and area foundations also support numerous educational projects.


The local Lions Club, Elks Club, and Waller Road Grange, for example, have provided paperback dictionaries over the years to third graders at select schools to foster a love for learning.


Local Rotarians support the Emerald Ridge High Interact Club - a national service club for students ages 14-18. They have also contributed to the Challenge Day presentation in local schools. The program is designed to build connections and empathy among high school students.


Area Kiwanians also support high school Key Clubs, as well as community service activities at several district junior high schools.


The Masonic Corinthian Lodge #38 in Puyallup also recognizes scholastic achievement, community service, and citizenship by honoring outstanding high school juniors throughout the school district with an annual Masonic Outstanding Junior Achievement Award.


The following three students are examples of the many teens who have received scholarships to help in their educational pursuits.


Sonia Xu, Class of 2013 Puyallup High Washington State Fair Foundation scholarship recipient


ImageSince receiving her high school diploma last June, Puyallup High School graduate Sonia Xu has been excelling at the University of Washington (UW).


Xu is aided in her educational pursuits by a $5,000 Washington State Fair Foundation scholarship, payable over four years ($1,250 each year).


"It has definitely helped pay for tuition," she said. "It humbled me and made me feel very grateful."


The scholarship was also meaningful, she said, because she grew up in Puyallup and looked forward each year to attending the fair. She attended Spinning Elementary, Kalles Junior High, Puyallup High, and Running Start at Pierce College, Puyallup.


"That was my childhood, and I'm happy to represent Puyallup at UW," she said.


Xu enrolled at UW to study medicine but changed her focus to business last winter after connecting with students and faculty in the university's Foster School of Business.


The 18-year-old has since been immersed in challenging business courses focused on economics, accounting, and calculus. She also joined the Delta Sigma Phi business fraternity, is participating in two internships at area start-up companies, plans to apply in fall to the Foster School of Business, and has dreams of one day owning a business.


"I love interacting with people and doing group projects, and I really fell in love with the whole idea of business," she said.


In her senior year of high school, Xu was honored as one of Puyallup High School's 20 Outstanding Seniors. She served her community as a volunteer at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital and St. Francis House and earned a varsity letter in community service.


Jason Rogers, Class of 2012 Emerald Ridge High Puyallup Schools Foundation scholarship recipient


ImageJason Rogers graduated from Emerald Ridge High two years ago and enrolled that fall at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman with a $1,000 scholar- ship in hand from the Puyallup Schools Foundation.


Rogers received the Tom Brown Memorial Scholarship, which is given to one student each year at each of the district's three comprehensive high schools. Another three scholarships are given each year in memory of Tom's sister, Viola Brown. Tom worked in a local fishing tackle shop and Viola worked for the Boeing Co.


"I could focus on college and academics and not have to worry about finances," Rogers said. "Having the award in someone's memory was also special because of what they stood for."


Receiving a scholarship inspired him to push hard at WSU, he said, to be in a position to possibly qualify for more scholarships in college.


"Instead of settling for an A-minus in a class, I go for the A," he said. "I have also tried to get leadership positions on campus."


Rogers is enrolled in business classes with an emphasis in accounting. He is Director of Academic Affairs for the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, as well as a member of the university accounting club.


The 20-year-old plans to continue his education after WSU by pursuing a master's degree in accounting at Seattle University. His dream is to work at one of the "Big Four" public accounting firms in New York and invest heavily in the stock market.


Jordan Zuniga, Class of 2012 Rogers High Kiwanis Club of Puyallup scholarship recipient


Jordan Zuniga couldn't imagine a more perfect senior year of high school. The outgoing teen was named a Daffodil princess, as well as one of the school's Outstanding 20 Seniors.


Near the end of her senior year, she said she received one of the best gifts of all - a $500 scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of Puyallup.


The award was especially meaningful, she said, because it was voted on by the senior class and faculty. One girl and one boy are selected each year to receive the Cross Leadership Award, established by retired Rogers High Principal Stan Cross.


"It was definitely humbling to be chosen by my class," she said. "The $500 covered the cost of my books in my first quarter at Pierce College and allowed me time to find a job and save up for the next quarter."


The Cross Leadership Award is given to students with a 2.5 or higher grade point average and is based on involvement in school and community activities, personal responsibilities, and pride in school.


Zuniga continues to support Daffodil Festival activities and volunteer as a worship leader at her church. She took one quarter off school last March to participate with Youth With A Mission in Hawaii and plans to finish her associate's degree this fall at Pierce College Puyallup.


The 19-year-old said she is interested in a career in event planning that will tap into her strength in public speaking and communications skills.