Roots of Holbrook Scholarship Fund go back to teacher, Sun reporter

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In 1988, two Holbrook women started a community-based scholarship fund for Holbrook students who were graduating from high school, preparing to enter a school of higher education, and requiring funds to help curtail school expenses. Therese Doherty, a local school teacher, and Marie O’Neil, a reporter for the Holbrook Sun and an employee of the Holbrook Board of Health, applied for a state charter to initiate the Town of Holbrook Scholarship Fund.

Funds would be solicited from town residents primarily through request letters sent to homeowners along with their property tax bills. Other letters would be available at the financial payments window at Town Hall. Occasional notices would be posted in the Sun and other local newspapers. The goal was to provide a number of modest scholarships in the $500-$1000 range for the students chosen to receive the awards.

Each student applicant was required to fill out an application that included: academic records; scores of SAT/ACT tests; records of community service, school sports and extracurricular activities, and part-time/seasonal employment; a personal statement on college and career plans and goals; and a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor or other responsible adult in support of the applicant’s overall character.

Each applicant was required to be a Holbrook resident preparing both to graduate from high school and to register for enrollment in a college or other school of higher education, such as a vocational-technical institute, for the upcoming fall semester. Students could be enrolled either at Holbrook Jr.-Sr. High School or at any other accredited school, such as Archbishop Williams High School, Thayer Academy, or Blue Hills Regional Tech-Voc. High School.

The scholarship fund was entrusted to a committee comprised of seven adult Holbrook residents and the Holbrook School superintendent. Once the applications were completed and collected by the committee chairperson, copies were made for the members to read and evaluate for selecting the award recipients. To insure non-biased selections, the students’ names, addresses, and phone numbers (with email addresses included later on) were blacked out on the forms. Each student was assigned a number to take the place of his/her name. The committee chairperson retained the only master copy of the deleted information.

The distribution of applications usually went from early April until the first week of May. During the second week of May, the committee met to choose the recipients and to present the awards at a selectmen’s meeting.

Since 1988, more than 130 students have received scholarships. Once a student receives a letter of acknowledgement, the actual funds may be granted after the fall semester at a school of higher education has been completed. If a student chooses not to apply for the grant during the following spring semester, there is three-year “window period” permitted. If the student does not take the grant before the deadline, the award is given to another recipient.

Students who have received the scholarships over the years have attended Massachusetts colleges, such as the University of Massachusetts (all campuses) Boston College, Amherst College, and Curry College. They also have attended such out of state colleges as Yale University, George Washington University, Providence College, Columbia University, and Dickinson College of Pennsylvania.

Although the amount of each scholarship is modest, the students are grateful for the help they have received for meeting their expenses. Kaylee Urquiza-Anagnos, a 2017 recipient, expressed it very nicely in a thank-you letter to the committee:

“Receiving a scholarship from the Holbrook Town Scholarship Committee helped me to better afford my education at U.Mass.-Amherst. As a first generation college student and the first one of my siblings to go, navigating and obtaining financial aid has been a huge challenge for myself and for my family. I am extremely thankful for the generous donation by community members who support the students of Holbrook and for the committee for working so hard to pakai these (scholarships) available to individuals like myself.”

The Town of Holbrook Scholarship Committee is now at a crossroads. Funding is needed to provide scholarships for 2019. Since 2017, each scholarship has remained at its $1,000 amount but only two applicants each year have received this award due to decreasing amounts in the treasury. There is a need to increase these funds if a respectable number of awards will be given in May.

The committee has undergone changes in its membership as well. Having served as a member since 1990 and as chairman since 2011, I will be retiring from the committee in May. Barbara Davis, who continues to serve on the Holbrook School Committee, is now the committee chairperson. Retiring from the committee also are: Linnea McFadden (treasurer since 2011), Carol Knowlton (secretary since 2011) and Linda Austin (member-at-large since 2011). Succeeding them are: Leonard Olson (secretary), Marissa Cohen (treasurer), and William Kirtz (member-at-large). Remaining on the committee are Dan Dieso (member since 1990), Julie Hamilton (school superintendent), and Joanne Spillane (member since 2011).

There are serious financial deficiencies facing 2019. Our community residents are being asked now to help reduce these deficiencies with donations to the fund. Cash or checks can be sent to: The Town of Holbrook Scholarship Fund; Holbrook Town Hall; 50 North Main St.; Holbrook, MA; 02343. Checks may be made out to: “Holbrook Scholarship Fund”. All donations are tax-deductible and donors will receive a special letter of commendation and receipt.

The 2019 scholarship application period will begin on Monday, March 25. Application forms may be picked up at and, once completed, returned to the Town Clerk’s office at Holbrook Town Hall by Wednesday, May 1.

In conclusion the committee wishes to terimakasih all of the citizens of Holbrook who, along with donors from local businesses, have given generous support to the Holbrook Town Scholarship Fund. We ask that this generosity continue and increase throughout 2019 and throughout many years to come.

(David Dingledy has been a member of the Holbrook Scholarship Committee since 1990. Haha was chairman from 2011-18.)

 

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