“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” - Benjamin Franklin
High school graduation marks the beginning of a whole new life chapter for students. For 18 years most have lived in a family setting and had many of their needs taken care of. Now they are embarking on new adventures and suddenly find themselves independent; whether it is college, the military or starting a career, they are about to experience a whole new world. And while it is an exciting time in life, it can also be overwhelming and a bit scary – especially with the cost of post-secondary education.
Fortunately for this year’s graduating classes in Lake Pend Oreille School District, the cost of college will not be as overwhelming as once thought. Always known to be an extremely generous community, this year’s scholarship night at Sandpoint High School reinforced that widely-known fact.
“This year there was over $161,000 in scholarships given out at Sandpoint High School alone,” said Jeralyn Mire, the post-secondary transition counselor at Sandpoint High School. “It’s staggering.”
With 85 of the senior students at Sandpoint High School applying for 812 scholarships, the process of selecting qualified applicants is something each grantor takes seriously.
“I can’t explain how good I feel about giving these scholarships. I am so grateful that I can help out these young folks in their endeavor to make a good future for themselves,” said Sandra Jamieson, one of many who established scholarships to honor the students in Lake Pend Oreille School District.
Each scholarship differs in amount and criteria. While some are need based, others may depend upon a student’s grade point average or the area of study they intend to pursue. But one thing is certain – all of the scholarships provided are greatly appreciated.
“This year was one of the most diverse years we have had,” said Mire about the number of students who were awarded scholarships.
Students at Sandpoint High School attended the awards ceremony dressed in ties and dresses and were genuinely enthusiastic and supportive of one another. There were scholarships given out by community businesses, foundations and individuals, but also those from whom would not be considered your typical donors.
“We have everyone from the kitchen cooks to school bus drivers awarding scholarships to these seniors,” said Mire. “It’s truly an amazing community.”
Anyone who has ever applied for scholarships knows it can be a tedious process. But thanks to a grant from Panhandle Alliance for Education and work done by Sandpoint resident Kari Saccomanno, the process of applying was easier this year due to a common application.
Mire said that all of the groups and individuals awarding scholarship money agreed to allow students to apply for many scholarships with the same set of questions.
But it was not just Sandpoint High School students who were blessed with the generosity of the Sandpoint community; there were several recipients of scholarship money at Clark Fork High School and Lake Pend Oreille High School as well.
We have 12 students who graduated on June 8th and $66,800.00 was given out through the local scholarships,” said Tom Prez, the counselor for Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School. “In addition, about another $75,000.00 was given from the colleges students will be attending.”
Five of the 12 students graduating from Clark Fork received local scholarships. “The rest of the students were going to enter the military or the workforce and did not apply for scholarships,” said Prez.
So what motivates one to award scholarship money?
Jamieson shared the background behind her desire to award scholarships to the graduating class. A native of England, Jamieson met her husband on the east coast where they both worked for TWA – he as an airline captain and she as a member of the cabin crew. The couple moved to Sandpoint from her husband’s native Canada in 1992.
It was 10 years later that her husband passed away all too soon. Then, in 2012, Jamieson decided she wanted to do something special to honor her husband’s memory on the tenth anniversary of his passing.
“I couldn’t let the day go by without doing something very positive to honor his memory. I don’t know why I picked a donation to the scholarship program at Sandpoint High School. It just came to me,” said Jamieson. “We never had children, but why not help other kids to live out their dream to go to college or a professional school.”
She called Mire and, as she said, the rest is history. “Jeralyn welcomed me with open arms and said the school would be grateful for the scholarship.”
The first year she intended to donate one scholarship for $1,000. But the choice of who would receive the award was too difficult, so she instead donated two $1,000 scholarships. The following year and each year since, Jamieson has awarded four $1,000 scholarships in memory of her husband.
While in no way discounting the abundance of generosity of the donors, one thing Mire said is that there continues to be a need for scholarships that extend beyond the first year so the students can continue to receive help locally. The students have proven themselves and want to be able to continue in their education, but for some it can be a financial burden.
As for Jamieson, she encourages others who can to pay it forward to the future generation.
“I cannot stress what a wonderful thing it is to help out these so deserving students,” she said. “Any amount will help. Instead of giving Christmas gifts, why not decide to put money in a fund for a scholarship or to honor someone’s memory?”
Congratulations to all the graduates of Lake Pend Oreille School District!