"We are sending a message of 'believing in you' to our New Auburn High School students while reaching out with helping hands," said Brenda Scheil, an agriscience instructor and FFA advisor who proposed the idea.
Scheil and other New Auburn school district staff and community leaders have established a seedling fund through the Community Foundation of Chippewa County. Once endowed, the New Auburn Educational Scholarship Outreach Fund will support graduates attending two-year colleges or four-year universities. "Scholarships are another way of spelling hope in the eyes of students pursuing academic goals beyond high school," said Scheil, whose peers named her the state's Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher for 2017.
Scheil sits on a district school improvement committee that developed the concept of a perpetual opportunity for scholarship funding. A selection committee will make decisions on scholarship beneficiaries, Scheil said. While various scholarships are handled through the school district, "they don't build over time and that's what we wanted, something to continually be there," explained Jerrett Kowalski, a K-12 school counselor who also serves on the family, business and community partnerships committee.
The idea is to have a general fund that alumni and community members can donate to and that the small school district will not have to manage. The committee worked with Karen Smith, vice president for Security Bank in New Auburn and a member of the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) board, to establish the fund.
Smith discussed the idea with Charlie Walker, CCEDC president and CEO. Walker suggested the committee talk to the Community Foundation about how it could help the district establish a scholarship tool, such as the neighboring Bloomer school district had, Smith said. Without the Foundation's services and abilities to manage funds, including accounting and investing activities, this initiative would not be possible, she said. "They really embraced the idea and supported it well, and we owe them gratitude," Scheil echoed. Last spring the committee brought the idea to the New Auburn school board, and it approved the initiative, District Administrator Scott Johnson said.
"The impact on the school and the community is fantastic. It keeps our focus where it belongs. It keeps the school and businesses working together to do positive things for students, and in reality the entire community, as it encourages people to donate," he said. People can give donations for pass-through scholarships that are paid out that same year, or they can put money in a large pool that accrues investment earnings, Kowalski said. "We do have interest from potential donors already," he said. Not only will the fund provide an opportunity to donate, but people can feel comfortable about where the money is going to benefit students in their postsecondary years, Johnson said.
"I think a lot of people in the community want to help but don't know how," Smith noted. So far the committee has reached out to the community through word of mouth, but Kowalski said members will establish fundraising strategies after the new school year begins this fall. People will be able to learn more about the fund on the school website. "As students drive the pathway of their academic journey, every School District of New Auburn supporter can drive the journey with them through this scholarship outreach fund," Scheil said.
Grants support scholarships for students from the New Auburn School District.
Bloomer Masonic Scholarship Fund