Ten area high school students now have more money to put toward college. Wheatland Electric announced the winners of its inaugural scholarship program at its annual meeting April 15. Each student will receive a $1,000 grant from Wheatland. The recipients are: Marshal Hutchins-Scott Community High School; Skyler Hembree-Wichita County High School; Bailey Harris-Greeley County High School; Lakota Stucky-Syracuse High School; Marc Skipper-Deerfield High School; Kaitlynn Hammond-Holcomb High School; Taylor Hofeling-Great Bend High School; Leora Seiler-Conway Springs High School; Kaityn Dvorak-Caldwell High School; Andrew Mages-Argonia High School
The scholarship recipients are the children of Wheatland Electric members. “Wheatland Electric was founded by nine visionary members and has a rich history,” said Board President Wes Campbell. “We established 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 are going to students who are planning to attend an accredited 2 or 4-year college, technical or vocational school. Now that the winners have been announced, Wheatland will write checks directly to their schools of choice.
Recipients were judged on their academic performance, school activities, career goals and a 1,000 word essay. 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 will all of us.”
The Wheatland Board of Directors had pledged to give away 13 thousand dollars in all, with plans to spread the wealth among the 13 high schools in Wheatland’s service territory, however three high schools did not put forward applicants. The eligible high schools are: Argonia, Caldwell, Chaparral, Conway Springs, Deerfield, Great Bend, Greeley County, Holcomb, Norwich, Scott County, South Haven, Syracuse and Wichita County. Wheatland said it plans to offer the scholarships again in 2016 and hopes all the eligible schools will participate.