United Way scholarship focuses on community service

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — High school seniors dedicated to community service in southwest Michigan have the chance to win a scholarship toward their post-secondary education.

United Way of Southwest Michigan is seeking nominations for the Volunteer United Youth Scholarship Award. The Volunteer United Youth Scholarship Award recognizes one self-nominated winner from each of the three counties in UWSM’s area: Berrien, Cass and Van Buren, who has demonstrated a commitment to volunteerism through innovation, dedication, and advocacy for community improvement throughout their high school career.

“It’s so important to encourage young people to get involved with volunteering when they are very young,” said Jennifer Tomshack, marketing and communications manager for United Way of Southwest Michigan. “It forms them into someone who really cares about the community, cares about other people and wants to give their all to others. We see that time and again with the scholarship winners we have coming through, and we want to encourage that in our communities. We want to make sure young people have a chance to build on the volunteer experience they have had in high school.”

Winners will be recognized in the fall. Each winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship made out to their college on their behalf. Only current high-school seniors are eligible to apply. Applications are due by March 12.

“This past year, volunteers have stepped up to help their communities during the pandemic, and that holds true for local youth, too, who looked for ways to continue to be involved and help their neighbors and other community members even though schools, sports, and other activities were shut down,” said Debbie Ramirez, director of volunteer engagement at United Way of Southwest Michigan. “There are some amazing volunteer leaders in our community —and many of them are teenagers.”

Tomshack said she is excited to see this year’s applications and find out how local youth have continued volunteering despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s amazing to me to see how creative people have gotten to find a way to continue to help the community and our organization,” she said. “People who have the best of intentions in their hearts find a way. There have been lots and lots of people who have stepped up and helped others. It will be really interesting to see what the kids have done this year. I think we are going to see some great stories come out of this.”

In 2020, the annual scholarship award went to Anna Glomski, of Paw Paw High School, now attending Concordia University Ann Arbor; Jonathan Leach, of Ross Beatty High School, Cassopolis, now Southwestern Michigan College; and Zoey Martin, of Niles High School, now SMC.

“They really blew us out of the water,” Tomshack said. “They give you an idea of the incredibly high caliber of applicants we get for this scholarship.”

With the 2021 deadline fast approaching, Tomshack said she would encourage any high school senior in Berrien, Cass or Van Buren counties dedicated to community service to apply for the scholarship.

“We encourage any high school senior who has done volunteering to throw their hat into the ring,” she said.

High-school seniors can apply for the scholarship at uwsm.org/nominate-a-volunteer.

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