Scholarships reflect astonishing generosity of Island community
At first glance, the small type on the list of student scholarships awarded at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's Class Night on June 12 appears a blur of grey. But each number, whether $200 or $10,000, stands out, in an impressive $850,000-plus total, as a testament to the Island community's generous support of its students' education.
Whether landing a big fish, honoring a loved one's memory, or cooking a bathtub-sized batch of spaghetti, hard work and selflessness go into the fundraisers and donations that add up to scholarship dollars.
This year's total scholarship awards exceeded $850,850, according to Michael McCarthy, guidance director at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS).
Money donated by Island clubs, organizations, businesses, church groups, law enforcement and emergency responders, families, and individuals made 552 individual awards possible.
In addition to graduating seniors who receive scholarships, many post-secondary graduates apply and return for multi-year scholarships. This year's graduating seniors received approximately $541,990 in 364 awards and post-secondary graduates, $308,860 in 188 awards.
"It speaks volumes when we're in the economic times we're in that all of these people were able to still generate in excess of $800,000 for our kids," MVRHS principal Stephen Nixon said last week. "That is just remarkable. I think it sends a lot of messages. It sends a message that reminds everyone just how much the community supports education here on the Island, and I think it's a great reminder for our kids about how well they are supported."
MVRHS school committee chairman Susan Mercier agreed. As the parent of graduating senior Emily Mercier and an awards presenter, Ms. Mercier said, "We were there for three and a half hours on Friday night, and it was the most amazing night we've ever participated in on the Island. It is a really powerful night, for people to stand up and have us all remember those who mean so much to the students and made such an impact on them - and are still impacting students' lives."
Ms. Mercier, who also serves as president of the MVRHS Girls' Ice Hockey Booster Club, said the recession definitely made fundraising more challenging this year. "We give out a $1,000 scholarship every year, and it really made us stop and think this year," she said. "Our fundraising efforts, like a lot of people's, were not as successful. But it's so important to keep moving forward."
"The thing I don't want us to lose sight of is when you are going to these spaghetti dinners or buying a raffle ticket or going to a car wash, you are supporting the program, definitely," Ms. Mercier added. "These children are having opportunities they would never be able to have otherwise, such as playing in tournaments or singing in Europe. But you're also supporting a very important scholarship program."
As the manager and buyer at Edgartown Books, Ms. Mercier also pointed out that when Islanders support local businesses, those businesses in turn support local causes, such as school fundraisers.