By Rongi Yost

Sisters celebrates graduating scholars


Last updated 6/1/2010 at Noon

The Sisters GRO program presented scholarship winners with symbolic pine trees to plant and watch grow. photo provided

The celebration of Sisters High School Students Class of 2010 proved to be a memorable evening as students, parents, families and community members gathered last week to celebrate the successes of the approximate 135 students who will graduate on June 4.

Despite hard economic times, the community of Sisters showed its generosity, distributing for the sixth year in a row over $100,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors. Six more

scholarships were awarded this year compared to last year, and many organizations increased the amount of their scholarships over last year.

GRO (Graduate Resource Organization) and the Sisters High School administration and staff co-sponsored the event. GRO, founded by Karen Hensley, is a non-profit organization with a mission: "Sisters' Graduate Resource Organization recognizes that a vibrant community fosters the dreams, ambitions and goals of its young people. We are dedicated to the growth of our community's future by championing post-high-school education through scholarships and graduate support programs. By investing in Sisters graduates, we invest in our community."

GRO greeted the donors with appreciation packages as they entered, and guests were offered hors d'oeuvres and punch as well.

Hensley said, "The appreciation packs for the donors was just a little gesture to let them know how much we appreciate them supporting the kids. It's all for the pureness of doing good things. I'm excited to be able to do these details for the donors, and the students are


Forty-one students were awarded scholarships, and presenters noted what a difficult time they had in choosing the recipients.

Zander Albertson, along with Parker Bennett, distinguished themselves as recipients of the Ford Family Scholarship which pays for 90 percent of their college needs after the expected family contribution and other monetary awards have been deducted.

Albertson, who also earned The Nugget Newspaper Student of the Year Scholarship, said, "It's humbling and honoring to have all this support from the community. It was a very rewarding evening."

Zander will be attending Southern Oregon University, as it is the only state school that offers photojournalism as a major.

Bennett said, "The Ford Scholarship will definitely make a big difference. Without it I'd be very much in debt after four years. And, I'm so very thankful for how generous our community was with the local scholarships, and it was nice to meet the donors and see how happy and willing they were to give the scholarships.

"I was also amazed at how many from the community came out to support and congratulate us," said the SHS track star. "It was almost like winning a race."

Parker will head to Willamette University in the fall and will run both cross country and track. He is still undecided in a major.

Austin Erlandson and Emily Rickards were recipients of the $12,500 Weitzman Scholarship, along with other scholarships as well. Both were overwhelmed by the scholarship money they received and were very thankful.

Erlandson was so overcome with emotion upon receiving the $12,500 Weitzman Scholarship he was moved to tears.

"Literally, I think this was the first time I've publically been brought to tears," said Erlandson. "It was so unexpected. Because of this I'll be able to attend Belmont all four years. The scholarship money from tonight will take care of all my out-of-pocket expenses, which is huge!"

Rickards reflected on the entire night.

"Walking into school tonight was incredible, and it was so exciting for me to see all my classmates receive awards," said Rickards. "I feel so blessed to be a part of this community and to have built such great relationships with the staff and students at this school. I didn't expect to receive all the scholarships I did but I feel greatly honored. They will all play a huge part of furthering my college education at Seattle Pacific."

High school principal Bob Macauley told The Nugget that this night is one of his favorite events of the entire year.

Macauley said, "The night for me is an especially touching night. I get to see the incredible amount of work behind the scenes, GRO, Aspire, teachers and the front office. I see the joy that this amount of work brings to the hearts of families of students headed to college. This is just another community event in Sisters that again defines our community and the care we have towards raising our children."

Donors also commented on the evening.

Lance Trowbridge, who presented the Bill Edwards Alumni Spirit Scholarship, said, "This school is a very special place. If you talk to parents whose kids have gone here they comment on how proud they are of the quality of education and the excellent staff from the administration down. They say SHS gives kids the opportunity to excel in their own character and we all see it in their championship spirit."

Brad Bullock, presenter of the SHS Volleyball Scholarship, stated, "The most rewarding thing for me is seeing the kids eventually give back. It might not be just in our community, but it comes back somewhere and many times over. I've seen it happen over and over again."

The celebration ended with a new tradition. Seniors filed up to the podium one by one, gave their name and the college they would be attending and GRO presented each graduate with a pine tree wrapped in a black and white scarf.

Hensley said, "We (GRO) went to a lot of work to get the donation of the pine trees for the graduates. They were presented as a sendoff gift as a symbol to remind them of this transition in their life. We encourage the kids to plant the trees and watch them grow, and as the trees grow be reminded that they themselves are growing too."

Conor Greaney and Bryant Lasken took over 300 pictures over the course of the evening. They will be posted on the GRO Web site,, and also sent to the donors in a Smile Box.


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