Numerous local scholarships available to high school seniors

Wrangell High School seniors have potentially more than $70,000 in higher education scholarships available to them from local organizations.

Funds range anywhere from a one-time $100 award to $5,000 per year for four years. Though application deadlines for some are already past, many are still available for seniors looking to pursue a postsecondary education such as college or trade school.

“These scholarship opportunities are vital to our students,” said counselor Addy Esco. “The world of postsecondary education and training has changed drastically since the pandemic began and there are a lot of uncertainties in these sectors.”

The amount of scholarships available to Wrangell students is “huge,” Esco said, particularly for local awards among the limited competition of this year’s graduating class of only 15 students.

“I always tell students to just apply, even if they aren’t certain they qualify or are ‘good enough’ to get the scholarship, they just need to apply because they have a good shot,” she said.

One of the largest scholarships awarded each year is the Wrangell Scholarship Fund, also called the Wrangell Pulp Corp. Scholarship, which generally selects three students per year and gives each $20,000 over the course of four years. It was created in honor of Tadao Sasayama, the founder of Alaska Pulp Corp., which owned the Wrangell sawmills for decades.

Recipients of the Wrangell Scholarship Fund must take a full course load at whichever postsecondary school they attend.

The account is managed by the Alaska Community Foundation, in Anchorage. The organization receives an average of seven applications each year for the scholarship.

“We are managing 50 or 60 scholarships at this point for Alaska students,” said Elizabeth Miller, vice president of development and communications for ACF. “They run the gamut. They have all been established by donors here at ACF, and each donor has their own interests. This one is focused on Wrangell students, but we have scholarships that focus on communities like Wrangell, and some are statewide.”

Miller said students in Wrangell can apply for as many scholarships as they are eligible. “It depends on the criteria the donor sets up initially. Many of our scholarships (require) higher education, including trade school. Some are restricted to go on to college, but not all of them by any means.”

Jade Balansag, who graduated from Wrangell high in 2021 and is a first-year biomedical engineering student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was awarded the Wrangell Pulp Scholarship, along with the Anna Loftus Ream Memorial, Iversen Memorial, Colin Buness Memorial, Wrangell Medical Center Foundation, Kiks.adi, Alaska Native Sisterhood and Alfred B. Ryll scholarships. She also was awarded six additional scholarships that aren’t specific to Wrangell.

It wasn’t easy to apply for such a multitude of scholarships, but Balansag said it was worth it.

“It was a difficult process at first,” she said. “I spent much of my time writing short to long essays to answer the different prompts from each scholarship. Luckily, as I applied for more, I was able to take the essays I wrote and simply modify them to fit the prompts instead of writing whole new essays. The most difficult part is bringing yourself to apply to the first one.”

Balansag said the scholarships continue to play an important role in her college career, helping to reduce the cost of what she pays out of pocket for her education and expenses like a laptop, textbooks and necessary supplies. “The funds also helped offset travel costs, as travel from Alaska to the East Coast is expensive.”

Currently available scholarships:

GCI Scholarship: $2,000.

Wrangell Pulp Scholarship: $5,000 per year, up to four years.

Elks Legacy Award: $4,000.

Anna Loftus Ream Scholarship: $2,500, renewable for up to four years.

Sig and Helen Decker Scholarship: $3,000, with opportunity for renewal for an additional year.

Wrangell Pat Roppel Memorial Scholarship: $5,000.

Virginia Kaspar Memorial Scholarship: $500 to $1,000.

Alaska State Association of Emblem Clubs: $1,000 last year.

Team Wrangell, Helen Decker Scholarship: Varies each year

Alaska State Association of Emblem Clubs Grant-in-Aid Scholarship: $500 last previous year.

Greg Scheff Memorial Scholarship: $2,000 last previous year.

Joel Wing Scholarship: $1,000 last year.

Allen Benjamin Scholarship: $1,000 last year.

WMC Foundation Health Careers Scholarship: $1,000 per year, up to four years.

- Source: Addy Esco, high school counselor


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