Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 29, 2012
All high schools need a scholarship coordinator

A quarter of a million dollars.

That’s how much Grantsville High School students earned in college scholarships this school year. It sounded like an impressive amount of money until I heard that Stansbury High School students beat their previous year’s earnings of $1.3 million and Tooele High School got nearly $1.2 million.

Granted, GHS scholarship amounts could have been underreported. And certainly, the fact that GHS is half the size of either SHS or THS might explain the disparity.

Still, it’s a conspicuous gap.

I have a daughter who just finished her sophomore year at GHS. She has big plans for college, but Mom and Dad’s contribution may well be Sunday meals, a reprieve from the public Laundromat, and occasional gas money.

She knows she’ll have to make it happen, earning her own way and having her hand cramp from filling out scholarship application forms. After all, over a billion dollars in scholarship money reportedly went unclaimed this year. In other words, there’s money to be had, if only you know how to find it.

That’s what Pamela Keller does at Stansbury High. The part-time scholarship coordinator spends the bulk of her time searching for scholarships, organizing them into digestible handouts, and shepherding students through the staggering array of scholarship applications. A member of a local scholarship awards committee was very complimentary of Keller, praising applications submitted by SHS students as well thought out and organized.

Keller credits their program’s success to Kim Herrera, who heads up SHS’ counseling department. A forward-thinker, Herrera tries to learn from the success of others. She visited with other schools that have thriving scholarship programs, like East High School. When an opportunity came to add a part-time employee dedicated solely to scholarships and college readiness, she jumped at the chance.

After doing a bit of digging, I have yet to get a clear-cut answer to the question: “How come Stansbury has a scholarship coordinator, while other schools in Tooele County don’t?”

GHS counselor Tony Cloward and THS counselor John Anderson aren’t sure why, too, but they both recognize that their schools could benefit from a specialist. While waiting in the counseling lobby on a typical day, with students zipping in and out of offices, I could see why scholarships are inadvertently relegated to a “time-permitting” pile.

To be fair, it’s not for lack of staff effort. Recognizing this need, GHS recently transferred scholarship duties from Cloward, who teaches classes, too, to another counseling staffer. And Anderson, who works solely as a counselor, is presumably able to do more than his GHS counterpart. However, a good scholarship program takes more than posting online lists, links and announcements over the PA system by a staff already stretched thin doing other equally important duties.

SHS has a program worth emulating: scholarship workshops early in the process, a senior-year scholarship timeline, targeted email reminders to interested students and parents, frequent assessments and goal-setting.

And of course, a counselor dedicated to scholarships.

The better a student’s prospects of attending college through scholarships, the better it is for their school in the long run. Scholarship awards boost school morale and foster a curriculum that supports successful academics. More importantly, students will be motivated to excel, not as an afterthought but as part of a bigger academic plan.

Jewel Punzalan Allen is a long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville.

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