$3M in scholarships

Skyler Ray, a senior at Clinton High School, speaks with Toni Blount, college and career coordinator.

Skyler Ray, a senior at Clinton High School, speaks with Toni Blount, college and career coordinator.

With school winding down, Skyler Ray spent a portion of her Wednesday morning reviewing paperwork for scholarships.

The senior at Clinton High School will graduate in a few weeks and plans to attend Appalachian State University to study environmental science. A competitive $4,000 scholarship from the North Carolina Blueberry Festival will help pay for it. She was one of many seniors who received scholarships from various sources. It was recently announced that the total amount received by CHS students was more than $3.5 million.

“It’s a big relief,” Ray said about lessening the burden for her parents and paying back student loans. “It’s a big honor to receive it.”

In the future, Skyler hopes to becomes a meteorologist and her scholarship will help her in the beginning stages of her goal. Some of the work for the award required a three-page essay and teacher recommendation letters.

Toni Blount, college and career coordinator, said the total is a record, according to records going back to 2008. Currently there are about 180 seniors at CHS. From that total, more than 100 students received some type of scholarship. Blount expects the total amount to increase during the summer due to a lag in the financial aid online system. Once students get notices from colleges, she expects the merit-based scholarship to add to the total.

“In terms of comparing the numbers of the senior class to the amount of dollars that they earned, it was a tremendous amount of money,” Blount said. “It’s going to offer opportunities to students to decrease financial stress and burden on the family.”

In addition, Blount said it’ll allow students to purse graduate and even doctorate degrees, since students will have to pay less for a bachelor’s.

Some of the scholarships came from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, the Golden LEAF Foundation, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and State Employees Credit Union. Some of the local scholarships came from organizations and businesses such as Ford of Clinton, Kiwanis International, Lions Club International and multiple churches from the community. Scholarships were also awarded in memory of a donor’s family member.

“It’s a great example of how schools thrive with community support,” Blount said. “When our students maximize their experience in high school that’s recognized by a local service oriented club, family or agency.”

Another local scholarship beneficial to students comes from the Simple Gifts Fund. Two students received awards to attend a university outside of North Carolina. The total amount for each scholarship depends on factors such as tuition and other financial needs. Blount mentioned how a lot of out-of-state liberal arts colleges may cost about $60,000 per year.

“That can make or break if a student can get that kind of experience,” Blount stressed, noting it is fortunate for students who work hard in high school and become involved in the community, groups and organizations.

“That’s almost like a full-time job in addition to being a student,” she pointed out. “The pay off comes when they get the merit-based scholarships.

As a college coordinator, one of her goals is to decrease loan debt for students.

“If students can replace those loans with scholarships, that’s when the whole package comes together,” she said. “They get the federal money, they get the merit-based money and they can attend college without debt.”

Ray said a lot of her peers were very active when it came to hunting and applying for scholarships.

“We’ve all worked very hard on scholarships this year,” she pointed out.

For the underclassmen, Blount and Ray believe they should make an attempt to apply.

“They should definitely try to do everything that they can,” Ray noted.

Blount stressed how hard work such as Ray’s efforts pay off, and she hopes the amount increases for the class of 2016.

“They’re seeing their leadership on campus and they’re hearing about scholarship dollars,” she said about the seniors. “It opens up opportunities for students to start asking questions and planning. It’s really a great example of community support and peer modeling.”