SANDPOINT — About 60 local groups presented Sandpoint High School students with more than $156,000 in scholarships Tuesday night.
"Every year at this time, it just warms my heart," said SHS postsecondary counselor Jeralyn Mire. "And I think about how lucky we are to live in this community."
During this year's Sandpoint High School Scholarship Night, approximately 50 students were awarded scholarships, with many receiving multiple awards. Most of the recipients were seniors, but a few sophomores made the cut as well. Community members representing the different groups — from the Eagle Ladies Auxiliary to Veterans of Foreign Wars, numerous memorial scholarships and more — presented the awards.
"Even our bus drivers give out scholarships," Mire said. "How incredible is that?"
A former SHS student, Jake Sleyster, created the Sleyster Unlimited Potential, or SUP, scholarship as well. Two students were presented with the SUP scholarship Tuesday by Sleyster's dad, Dave Sleyster, on behalf of his son for the "immense support" he received from his teachers, coaches and others in the Sandpoint community.
"This community allows continuous backing for all its students to achieve their goals," Dave Sleyster said. "The support that Jake received allowed him to continually strive and find his unlimited potential."
The Rotary Club of Ponderay handed out 17 scholarships, the most individual awards from one group, totalling $16,500.
"We like to spread the wealth," said Rotary member Tiffany Goodvin.
All of the scholarships ranged from $250 to $3,000, and there was an additional GI Bill presented to one student for up to $98,000, depending on whether he takes full advantage of it. Mire said the average scholarship award was $1,000. Most groups do not advertise the amount of the scholarships are during the application process.
"It has kind of gone away from the amount of money as much as it is the recognition that you've really done a great job," Mire said.
This years graduating class is made up of 201 students, with approximately 80 percent of the seniors planning to pursue some type of postsecondary education, whether it be a four-year, two-year, trade, technical or the military. Those seniors applied for 696 local scholarships, Mire said.
Patsy Sletager, SHS attendance secretary/registrar, has a niece and granddaughter who received scholarships, and over 30-plus years at the high school, she has children who have gone through scholarship night in the past as well. She said it is "mind blowing" how generous the community is."
"It is just awesome to sit there and watch all those kids get a boost, get a start," Sletager said. "... I thought it was really well balanced. They spread it out really well this year — I was impressed."
Amanda Ott, college and career mentor at SHS said some things that have made an impact on her is that the Sandpoint community values higher education so much, they are willing to tackle one of the biggest barriers for students — finances — as well as the amount of money the community raises "just so that they can give it away."
"For some of these students, I know that this really is a life changing experience for them, to feel so much support in the pursuit of their dreams, and that it will cause a ripple effect in deepening their commitment to help others," Ott said.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.