A local education institution gives students $51,000 | News

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The Peoria Education Foundation continues its work of empowering students to further their education, and the foundation recently awarded $51,000 in scholarships to high school seniors across the Peoria Unified School District.

Distributed across seven separate awards, each student has been hand-selected for the variety of work and successes they achieved during their time in high school, and the recognition will give them a huge helping hand in taking their education to the next level.

“It’s definitely one of the best feelings,” said Tamara Croaway, chairwoman of the Peoria Education Foundation. “Every board member does it because it comes from the heart, and they do it because they absolutely want to devote their time to helping students further their education.”

A non-profit organization that began in 1987, the initial goal of the Peoria Education Foundation was to support higher education for high school students and to do so through a variety of scholarships. The seven scholarships recognize students for their academic excellence, as well as other aspects that make them more than just a student.

The Against All Odds Scholarship recognizes students who have overcome adversity or obstacles on the way to graduation; The Community Service Scholarship recognizes students who are active in the community and have at least 100 hours of community service; The Joseph McCord Memorial Scholarship honors those looking to pursue history in higher education; The Dr. Santarelli Leadership Scholarship recognizes leaders in the school; The Rosella and Hugo Sickinger Memorial Scholarship is awarded to women who “demonstrate poise”; The Project Unify Scholarship and Award is awarded to athletes and partners to participate in the United Sports program on campus; Finally, the Unify Champion Scholarship honors a physically strong student who has collaborated with a person with special needs and helped them through many aspects of high school.

The process for students to select each of the recipients is based on an essay that each student must write. Depending on which scholarship they apply for, it is carefully reviewed and then selected by members of the Peoria Education Foundation Committee.

“These students have worked hard their entire high school careers volunteering and being active in their school community, but they are full of gratitude,” said Caraway. “And they know they’re just one step away from being able to enroll in those first college classes and all the excitement that comes with getting into college.”

After students are selected, they are notified by the district of their achievement and then invited to a reception hosted by the foundation, a moment Caraway looks forward to each year.

“I am really happy to see the students and to be able to hand them the scholarship certificate so they know they can continue their education,” said Caraway. “This is where the real value lies. It is just their vision and knowledge that they will be able to take another step in the direction of adulthood by expanding on their educational experiences.”

With nearly 40 students from eight schools awarded scholarships, Peoria Education’s mission is steadily growing, with more scholarships to come. With a plethora of fundraising events on the calendar, its biggest event is just around the corner — the annual Visual Supper, which takes place at the Arizona Broadway Playhouse on Friday, April 28.

It is events like these that allow the Foundation to continue its work of helping to initiate higher education for high school students.

“Each year we try to set higher standards for our fundraising goals and look for opportunities for how we can move forward with the goals we set for ourselves,” said Caraway.

“It is certainly encouraging to be able to see both parents and students or grandparents, whoever is attending the scholarship ceremony, to see them and talk to them and learn more about each student.”