The valley’s graduating seniors were awarded more than $660,000 Monday as the community rallied to support them.
“Normal towns don’t have nights like this,” said Erik Wachob as he awarded the Alvis Forbes Student Athlete Memorial Scholarship.
The scholarship night for public and private school students is an annual tradition. This year the Jackson Hole High School auditorium was packed with proud parents, grandparents, students, teachers and community members excited to help the class of 2018 on whatever the students’ next step may be. One hundred and twelve students were recognized, 102 from Teton County School District No. 1.
It’s always hard for donors to pick recipients. Almost every scholarship presenter lamented the difficulty of the decision and said they wish they could’ve chosen all the qualified applicants. The American Legion Post of Jackson Hole Scholarship, for example, had three times as many applicants as ever before for its scholarship.
Even local government got involved in the night. Teton County Commissioners Paul Vogelheim and Smokey Rhea presented two scholarships. They agreed it was hard to narrow 21 applicants down to three winners.
“If you come and watch the commissioners in action, this took two or three days for us to reach this decision,” Vogelheim joked.
“Two or three weeks,” Rhea said. “It’s so nice to watch these kids grow up and recognize what an amazing community we have and how proud we are of our graduates.”
Students wore freshly pressed shirts and looked dapper in stiff collars, high heels and combed hair as they came onstage to accept awards from donors. Recipients ranged from students who had overcome medical hardships to those who want to pursue careers in law enforcement.
Several new scholarships were introduced this year, like the Teton County Social Services Scholarship for students pursuing degrees in that field, The Rotary Club of Jackson Hole’s Finish Line Scholarship and the Fuzzy Buddy Animal Welfare Scholarship.
Some, like the Adam Denton Memorial Scholarship, are awarded in memory of students who left too soon.
“Our prayers will go with them in their endeavors,” said Rita Denton after she awarded several students money in honor of her son Adam, who died in a 2007 car crash on his way to a swim meet.
Some scholarships are specific, like the ProStart Invitational Award, which recognized the Jackson Hole High School’s culinary team. The team is headed to a national competition in Rhode Island, and each team member has already received scholarship offers from prestigious culinary schools around the country. Others, like the Erin’s Fund Scholarship, presented by the Jackson Hole Community Foundation in honor of Erin Goodman, killed in a car crash in 2009, look less at GPA and more at character.
Many scholarships require essays and interviews. Others, like the Jackson Hole Fine Arts Scholarship, required that students audition in front of a panel of performing arts judges.
Employers like 3 Creek Ranch and the Grand Teton Lodge Company also turned up to support their student workforce and children of their adult employees. In its 25th year the Teton Pines Country Club Scholarship has raised a total of $950,000, General Manager Mike Kitchen said.
The night was meaningful to educators who have watched students grow up.
“I could get choked up every time,” said Annie Sampson, a computer teacher at Colter Elementary School, as she awarded the Delta Kappa Gamma Scholarship.
Jackson Hole High School counselor Emily Hoffer agreed.
“This is my favorite night of the school year,” she said. “It’s a time to celebrate student accomplishments and plans, achievements, goals and experiences. I also love it for its clear evidence of the pride our community takes in our students and their education. To students, these awards represent monetary support as well as belief in you and your future. I hope that the excitement, pride and connection you feel tonight carries with you to whatever happens next.”
See the full list of scholarship winners in the Valley section of next week’s Jackson Hole News&Guide.
This edition of the article has been edited to correct Mike Kitchen's title. — Ed.