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Foundation helps college students with expenses

Volunteer educators and counselors enhance high school senior’s chance for higher education

Posted: December 25, 2008 4:46 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2008 4:30 a.m.
 

For the average high school student, a college education is a laundry list of expenses: tuition, books, housing, meals.

But in the Santa Clarita Valley, deserving students can find monetary help with relative ease.

The Santa Clarita Valley Scholarship Foundation serves about 140 local high school seniors, providing nearly $200,000 annually.

Mint Canyon residents Walter and Gertrude Baugher created a trust fund to provide higher-education funding for students in the William S. Hart Union High School District in 1951. That fund spawned the foundation.

Run by 25 volunteer educators and counselors, the foundation enhances students' chance at higher education.

"I always tell my students you can be whatever you want to be, but you have to go to college," said Linda Valdes, vice president of the foundation and a teacher at Rio Vista Elementary School. "We know that knowledge is power and to become a life-long learner is important in any career."

Sponsored only by local businesses, retired educators and residents, the foundation offers students between $550 and $4,000 to pay for anything the student wants.

Because of its nonprofit status, the foundation fund raises only about a hundred dollars at a time at Santa Clarita events.

Foundation President Judy Riley said the group runs on meager funds.

"Our office is a P.O. box in Newhall," she said. "We really do operate on a shoe-string budget."

Each year about 700 seniors grab applications from their high school counselor's office and send them directly to the foundation.

Applicants are then placed with a specific scholarship.

Every May, all the members of the foundation and sponsor representatives gather at the Valencia Golf Course and decide the winners.

According to Valdes, the meeting takes nearly six hours.

"We are crying by the end of the night. With student after student telling their stories and their goals, it is inspiring as a mother and a teacher," Valdes said. "It gives us hope."

After the members make their final decisions, students receive their scholarships at formal ceremonies in Santa Clarita high schools.

The foundation uses more than grades as judging criteria.

"There is the idea that if you're not the student with a 4.5 GPA and president of the ASB, you can't win a scholarship," Riley said. "We have a scholarship that is made for a student going to vocational school," he said. "We got a lot of kids going to COC. What we are looking for (are) well-rounded kids."

For former scholarship recipients, the funds were an invaluable way to pay for the small expenses of college life.

Waseem Salahi, a graduate of Hart High School and a freshman at U.C. Berkeley, earned $4,000 from the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Scholarship.

"[The scholarship] reminds you that a strong community will always help out individuals; it has inspired me to repay that benevolence in the future," said Salahi.

Salahi uses the scholarship funds to pay for books.

This year, Riley said, the foundation members expect to increase the number of scholarships.

"People need to realize there are few cities that have a scholarship program," Riley said. "It is very local."

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