Dollars for Scholars giving record amount of aid

Recipients share how scholarships helped them
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Leader Photo by Jason Arndt Shawano Community High School senior Threse VanDyck performs a solo as the school’s jazz band entertains the audience at the Dollars for Scholars gala Friday at The Gathering.

Leader Photo by Jason Arndt Dollars for Scholars President Michael Sleeper addresses more than 200 people at the organization’s annual gala Friday at The Gathering.

Shawano Dollars for Scholars will provide a record $450,000 in scholarships to area students this year, the organization announced Friday at its annual gala at The Gathering in Shawano.

Nearly 100 Shawano Community High School seniors will be among the scholarship recipients.

Of the $450,000, $240,000 will be earmarked for graduating seniors at SCHS headed to college or technical schools, with the average scholarship totaling $2,000. All seniors who complete the process receive at least $1,000.

Dollars for Scholars, which selected “Mission Possible” as the theme for this year’s gala, distributed $435,000 in scholarships a year ago.

“Dollars for Scholars has always been outstanding,” said Michael Sleeper, the organization’s president. “As of this year, we have surpassed $2 million in scholarships. That is Mission Possible.”

The group’s endowment fund totals $11.5 million, thanks primarily to a $7.5 million donation from the Judge Michael and Joanne Eberlein estate announced at the 2011 gala.

Scholars treasurer Adam Gafner said it is imperative to preserve the endowment for future generations.

“Our ultimate goal is to not have the endowment run out of money,” he said. “We want to be able to give out money forever. … We want it to go future generations. Our goal is to prevent it from going down to zero.”

Three area residents who used Dollars for Scholars scholarships to further their education spoke at the gala about how the program affected their lives.

Wendy Burr Fritz, a 1995 SCHS graduate, earned a dental hygienist degree and landed a job in Shawano.

“There weren’t many choices of dental hygiene school, so I went to NWTC-Green Bay,” Fritz said. “By having the support of Dollars for Scholars, it pushed me more to get my degree.”

Adam Steinback, a 2012 SCHS graduate who is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh studying radio and television, received a continuing education scholarship.

“I can honestly say this has had a huge impact on my college career,” he said. “It is more than just getting a check, it was getting an experience we might otherwise miss.”

Tracy Zook, 43, received a New Vision Scholarship in 2013 and became a registered nurse at ThedaCare, where she is able to give back to the community, she said.

Dr. Robert Johnson, past president of the organization, said Judge Eberlein Second Chance Scholarships will be awarded for the first time this year.

“We have our first two winners, and they will be getting it in the coming days,” Johnson said. “It is very satisfying. We feel we are doing what Eberlein would do — giving people a second chance.”

The Dollars for Scholars board also recently extended the deadline for continuing education scholarship applications to June 1.

“Traditionally it has been May 1, but we found that a lot of those college students are currently working on testing or preparing for final exams, so we extended it to give them more time,” Johnson said.