Wheatland Electric will announce the winners of its inaugural scholarship program at its 67th Annual Meeting April 15, in Syracuse. The cooperative will give away $10,000 in all. Recipients will be judged on their academic performance, school activities, career goals and a 1,000 word essay.
The Wheatland Board of Trustees voted to make one $1,000 scholarship available to each of the high schools in Wheatland’s service territory. Eligible high schools in Wheatland’s territory are: Argonia, Caldwell, Chaparral, Conway Springs, Deerfield, Great Bend, Greeley County, Holcomb, Norwich, Scott County, South Haven, Syracuse and Wichita County.
The scholarship recipients will be the children of Wheatland Electric members, but everything else about their identities remains a secret for now. “Wheatland Electric was founded by 9 visionary members and has a rich history,” said Board President Wes Campbell. “We’re establishing this scholarship program to help develop the leaders of tomorrow and make sure Wheatland’s future is just as bright as its past.”
Wheatland got the word out about its new scholarship program through the guidance offices at each high school. Approximately 30 students applied for the scholarships in all. The $1,000 awards will go to students who are planning to attend an accredited 2 or 4-year college, technical or vocational school. Once the winners are announced, Wheatland will write checks directly to their schools of choice.
For their 1,000 word essay, Wheatland asked students to write “on any subject about which you are passionate.” That leaves students’ topics pretty wide-open, but the cooperative offered additional guidance that was rather humorous: “The topic which you choose is a part of the judging criteria. For example, someone who is passionate about chewing gum will not likely get as many votes as someone who is passionate about finding a cure for cancer.”
So what did student applicants ultimately write about? Here’s a small sampling of their impressive topics:
• A career in radiology dedicated to helping cancer patients
• How being raised on and working on a farm shaped their life
• Making a difference in the world by giving back
• Pursuing a career in nursing to help others every day
• A lifelong passion for horses that shaped a career choice
“This is a great opportunity for our students,” said Jennifer Lehman, a guidance counselor at Syracuse High School. “College costs just keep going up and up, so every little bit counts when it comes to funding the dream of higher education. We are very fortunate that Wheatland is so supportive of education and willing to invest in our students.” The average cost of private colleges has been going up 2.2 percent a year over the last decade, according to the College Board. The cost of public universities has been going up 3.5 percent a year during that same time period.
Many electric cooperatives throughout the country have scholarship programs, a reflection of their “Concern for Community,” one of the 7 “Cooperative Principles” upon which co-ops were founded. “This money doesn’t just benefit the individual students,” said Wheatland General Manager Bruce Mueller. “It’s an investment in our entire community, because hopefully these students will bring the new skills they learn in college back home to share with all of us.”
In addition to unveiling its scholarship recipients, Wheatland has several other activities planned for the April 15th meeting:
• Announce winners of the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, DC and Steam Boat Springs, Colorado.
• Vote for 2015-2016 members of the Wheatland Board of Trustees, plus proposed bylaws and amendments.
• Provide lunch for everyone who attends the meeting.
• Hand out free gifts to every Wheatland member in attendance and the chance to enter a drawing for great door prizes.
• Provide members with the opportunity to ask questions, offer input and have a voice in their electric cooperative.