By George Stahl
Special to the Sun
The Kern Valley High School held their annual Scholarship Awards Night on Monday, May 15 in the school’s Fine Arts Building. At the event, 31 students from the graduating class of 2017 received $82,500 in scholarships presented by local community clubs, organizations and individuals. Eleven of those students received awards from their various schools of choice that they will be attending starting as early as this summer for some. In total, $146,000 was distributed to the students.
As they were called to the stage by KVHS Principal, John Meyers, some of them had difficulty holding back their emotions, others shared in the enthusiasm of the over 200 in attendance. Parents, friends and teachers who made up the audience cheered as the recipients were awarded the money that would help them in furthering their education and giving them that much more an edge on achieving their differing goals. As Meyers and other presenters stated, the awards that these young men and women worked so hard for are only possible because the community as a whole has been contributing to the various benefactors, at their fundraisers and yearly events with the one goal of helping the young people of the valley forge their futures.
In order to receive these scholarships, the students had to definitely work hard all of their high school careers. They were required to fulfill the criteria of each of the organizations which they had applied for. For each one of those, awarding the funds differed, even if slightly in their requirements. If a student applied to more than one of them for support, that meant that the students had to be diverse in their thinking, behavior and academic performance. With several of the 31 being granted more than one scholarship by different groups, it was obvious that they knew the challenges and were able to meet them.
Besides the over 50 scholarships given out by 35 presenters, at the beginning of the ceremony, four special awards were presented to outstanding students who excelled in leadership and patriotism. The American Legion Award presented by Commander of Post 711, Daures Stephens, went to Tristan Papazian. Erin Woodward, presented two prestigious educational awards. Both the California Scholastic Federation and State Seal of Biliteracy Awards went to Concepcion ‘Connie’ Lopez. The 22nd Congressional District of California Merit Award, sponsored by Congressman Kevin McCarthy, was received by Makaylah Niederriter. Principal Meyers then called 18 students to the stage and presented them with the Principal’s Awards.
Several of the presenters were able to award either individuals or groups of students over $10,000 each. Some of them have been a part of the scholarship program for a very long time. Thomas Refuse, of which both Mike and Linda Thomas were graduates of the school, began giving their scholarship in 1998. Likewise, the Kern Community Foundation has been a participant for the past 17 years, and the Exchange Club of the Kern Valley has been a part of the program for a very long time. In the case of the Exchange Club, presenter and President of the local chapter explained that many of the students there that night were presenters at the Club’s meetings. Giving the students the opportunity be participants as well as recipients.
Many of the other presenters were also alumni of the High School. Tom McKinney, who was there on behalf of the Kern River Valley Masonic Lodge #827, was in the graduating class of 1954. One of the newest presenters was also an alumni. Danica Vittoria of Danica’s School of Dance awarded two scholarships to students who showed a dedication to the arts and who were pursuing a degree in that field,Trevor Morta and Emily Hester. When presenting Hester with the award, Vittoria began to cry as she said that she could remember dancing with her as a little girl.
Several of the scholarships were given as memorials to people who, while they were able, showed a tremendous amount of support to the high school, either as alumni or as one time teachers at the school. Others were in the name of associations and organizations related to education in some way, and still others were from individuals simply wanting to give back and to help the young people of the valley. Emily Keverline, in her presentation from the Kern Valley FFA Booster Club, issued a challenge to the 31 students. She pointed out that several of the presenters on the stage were alumni, and that they were now able to help future students as they were doing that night. Her challenge was for the 31 to one day come back to the valley and be a part of something like those alumni and be able to be the presenters to another group of kids just starting out.
Each of those presenting the awards to those 31 students said that it was through their hard work, dedication, and perseverance that they were chosen to receive these honors. By maintaining a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, and by being a prime example and by giving an outstanding representation of the Kern River Valley and KVHS, they have shown a desire to succeed and they earned the awards they were given.
Graduation for the class of 2017 will be on the evening of Thursday, June 1, at the High School football field. Look for all 31 of this year’s scholarship recipients on that night. They will be wearing their sashes and medallions, walking with the pride and support of the KRV behind them.