WESTERLY — Members of the Westerly High School Class of 1964 have reached their $50,000 goal for a fund that will be used to award scholarships to graduating students beginning this June.
In keeping with the WHS tradition that each alumni class celebrating its 50th anniversary give back to the school in a meaningful way, the Class of ’64 has spent the past four years setting up and raising money for The WHS Alumni Scholarship Fund Inc.
The fund will create several scholarships for the trades to benefit seniors interested in pursuing that type of career. With the initial $50,000 goal met, two or more seniors from the Class of 2014 will receive scholarships through the fund, said Charles Taylor, president of the nonprofit fundraising organization.
“We’re headed for $60,000 now,” Taylor said, explaining that a third annual golf tournament, to be held in May, will raise even more money for the fund.
The fund committee, which meets on a monthly basis, organized several fundraisers, including golf tournaments and wine and beer tastings. Taylor emphasized the committee’s appreciation for the generosity of many community merchants and businesses, for tee sponsorships in the tournament, gift certificates for raffle prizes, and direct donations.
“The interest and support from the community businesses gets stronger and stronger every year,” he said.
The committee has also recognized the Class of 1963 for their contributions to the fund, which totaled more than $11,000, according to Susan Sullivan Brocato, one of the fund’s directors. To show appreciation for those donations, Brocato said the committee this year will give a scholarship to a student from the Class of 2013, in addition to the Class of 2014 scholarships.
Both Taylor and Brocato pointed out that many students looking to pursue a career at a vocational or two-year trade school have far fewer options for scholarships than classmates who are planning to attend four-year colleges and universities.
“There would be kids who graduated with honors and were going to trade school, and there was nothing for them,” Brocato said, recalling her years spent teaching at the high school. “Now, they have an opportunity to be involved.”
While the Class of ’64 has been hard at work setting up the fund and raising initial contributions, Taylor said they hope to pass the torch to later classes of alumni, allowing the endowment to continue.
“When we first started this, that was the hope: a scholarship program that would perpetuate itself in the years to come,” he said. “It’s not about the Class of ’64. It’s about providing opportunities for continuing education with support from alumni and businesses in the community.”
Already, Brocato said several members from other classes are starting to attend committee meetings and are learning how to oversee the organization and its fundraising events.
With donations steadily increasing the funding total, the exact amount of money for each scholarship is still being determined, as is the process for selecting recipients. All interested students will be required to submit a short application, including an explanation of their plans, evidence of financial need, and an account of extracurricular and community activities. The application will also include student transcripts and letters of recommendation.
The golf tournament is scheduled for May 2 at the Beaver River Golf Club in Richmond. Brocato said another beer and wine tasting is also being planned, with a specific date and location to be decided.
The WHS Alumni Scholarship Fund Inc. is a Rhode Island nonprofit corporation with 501(c)(3) status. All donations are tax deductible. For more information on the scholarship or how to donate, visit wasfi64.org.