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July 01, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 01, 2005

Show me the money! Show me the money! (July 01, 2005)

College bound seniors earn scholarships for the fall

by Rebecca Guyon

Many Pleasanton students are college bound and that means, as high school expenses conclude, parents can expect a hefty bill for four years at a university. That's why many students try to ease their parents' financial burden by applying for scholarships.

This year, Amador Valley High School seniors were awarded approximately $550,000 in scholarships, although this number is only an estimate based on what students and parents reported to the school. It could actually be more, said Maelyn Poffenbarger who helps coordinate the scholarship program for Amador. Foothill High School does not keep track of how much money was awarded to students through scholarships.

Some of the major awards given out this year include the following: the Bank of America Achievement Awards, Amador Valley Scholarships Inc., National Merit Scholarship, Pleasanton Police Officers Association, Amador Valley Parent Teacher Student Association Scholarships, and Foothill Academic and Activities Boosters. Students were also awarded scholarships by the various colleges and universities they will be attending in the fall. Some special awards were given out this year as well, including the Special Recognition Basketball award to Kristen Hart at Amador. Hart played basketball for the women's varsity basketball team and was noticed by an anonymous donor who liked her positive attitude and decided to reward it by giving her a $1,000 scholarship.

Parent Teacher Association president Debbie Look, who also coordinates the scholarships for Amador, said the most popular scholarships are local ones from organizations such as the Parent Teacher Student Association, Rotary Club and the police department. This is because students have a high probability of receiving them, as opposed to national scholarships that are more competitive. One example of local scholarships is the $1,000 scholarship awarded to two Pleasanton high school women from the Livermore-Pleasanton-Dublin branch of the American Association of University Women. Marie Bartholdi and Holly Swift from Amador were given the award for their academic excellence.

Foothill academic counselor Susan Shanker said Foothill students have had the same experience and while many students may apply for the larger national scholarships, often they are not awarded it because of the huge competition pool. However, this year Vanessa Rodriguez from Foothill did win a major national scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholar Foundation. Each year, the Foundation awards $20,000 to 50 National Scholars and $4,000 to 200 Regional Scholars from across the country.

At both schools, parents are the main organizers of the scholarship information and distribute it to students via the school web sites and memos sent home with students. Nearly 140 scholarships were available to students this year, Look said.

"At the peak of the season there are about 10 or 12 pages (of scholarships)," Look said. "We list anything that comes in and always chose ones to highlight that are especially important."

Despite the number of scholarships available, there are a number that get passed up by students each year. This is because the application process can be quite intense, usually requiring an essay, recommendations and transcripts, which may not be worth the trouble for students who already have many demands on their time, Look said.

Some scholarships have very specific requirements that many students do not fit, which is why they usually go without a response, Shanker said. One example is a scholarship for students who plan on becoming an English teacher and another is a scholarship offered to students who were former students of a local third grade teacher who passed away. The chances of someone knowing their future career or having had that teacher are slim, which is why it may not receive applications, Shanker said.

In any case, seniors who meet the requirements and have the time can start looking for scholarship opportunities as soon as the school year starts by visiting their counseling office, checking their school's web site and keeping an ear out during morning bulletins. Parents may want to get in on the search too, especially since they're the ones footing the bill.

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