Tahoe-Truckee students await scholarships | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee students await scholarships

Tonight the process of deciding the winners of thousands of dollars in scholarship money will begin within the halls of two local high schools.

The Tahoe Truckee Community Scholarship Committee annually gives money to local high school graduates planning to pursue a future in higher learning, according to North Tahoe High School Counselor Penny Burney.

“We have a fabulous community that supports kids to go off to college,” Burney said. “And these scholarships are extremely valuable for paying their expenses ” we appreciate all the support from our community.”

What started as a handful of service organizations has bloomed into more than 40 contributors to the annual scholarship funding, said the Tahoe Truckee Community Scholarship Committee’s Helen Gates, vice chairwoman.

“They all wanted to come up with a way to get money to the students,” she said explaining the creation of the organization in the mid-60s. The organization is now a registered nonprofit.

Gates has been involved since its inception, she said.

During the 2006-07 school year contributors included ski resorts, insurance companies, service clubs, memorial funds, employee’s unions and individuals.

Close to $80,000 was given to students for their college careers last year, Gates said.

Katie Freeman, a 2007 North Tahoe High School graduate, received approximately $2,500 to pursue her college career, said her mother Cindy Freeman.

“I used it for school housing and books,” said the 18-year-old Sonoma State freshman.

Tonight, two separate committees will get together at both Truckee and North Tahoe High School to begin the selection process, according to Sharon Gutierrez, the scholarship committee’s chairwoman emeritus.

The five-member committees made up of scholarship donors will rate applicants on a point system while the student’s identities are kept anonymous, Gutierrez said.

“Everyone’s under strict secrecy laws,” she said.

The seniors are rated according to four categories: scholastic achievement, community school and work activities, personal qualities and financial need, said Kathleen Johnson, career technician at Truckee High School.

Ninety local seniors are in the running for scholarships this year, according to school officials. The committees will likely come to a decision by Wednesday.

North Tahoe and Truckee high seniors usually make up the bulk of the applicants, but any high school senior within the district’s geographical boundaries are welcome to apply, Gutierrez said.

Last year $78,000 was divided between 67 students, Gates said.

The awards, some of which renew annually, range from $150 to $3,000, Gates said. The committee awards both academic and vocational scholarships, she said.

Not only are student identities kept secret during the selection process, but the amount of the awards will not be publicized until the seniors graduate in early June, explained Gates.

“It is top secret; we have never had that information released ahead of time,” Gates said.

Gates, a Tahoe City resident from 1959 to 1989, will retire her post with the committee this year, she said.

With its longevity, the committee is now awarding some of the children of original recipients, she said.

Although the fund has experienced substantial growth over the past 10 years, Gates said they are always looking for new donors.

“It has really been interesting to see how it’s grown and the support is astronomical,” she said.

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