The WHS Scholarship Committee: Helping exemplary seniors

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Credit: Alyssa Ao

For the past 40 years, the WHS Scholarship Committee has been working to provide more than 20 seniors each year with scholarships to help pay their college tuition. “Overall, the mission very simply is to provide scholarship funds to WHS seniors who show financial need and academic promise,” current committee chair Jeanne Brown said.

Sophia Oppenheim

The pressure of paying for college is overwhelming for families all over the world. To ease this stress for Wayland families, the WHS Scholarship Committee has made it their mission to give scholarships for college to deserving high school seniors. For more than 40 years, the committee has made a lasting impact on the lives of WHS seniors.

In 1978, a group of WHS parents came together to start the committee. When the committee began, it focused on raising money through efforts such as bake sales, car washes and fundraising walks. Through the years, the group became more efficient with handling money. Now with 11 Wayland residents on the committee, the group receives donations from various donors, investing that money. Each year they award about 25 students for scholarships.

“Overall, the mission very simply is to provide scholarship funds to WHS seniors who show financial need and academic promise,” current committee chair Jeanne Brown said.

To apply for a scholarship, seniors fill out an application, which includes three questions and is followed by an interview. The committee looks at students’ transcripts and letters of recommendations while working closely with their class advisors and the guidance department to determine if they qualify for the scholarship. After the student is interviewed, the committee then decides which award they will receive. The awards are named in honor of past WHS staff or residents who have passed away.

“We give awards to about 25 kids, and we try to give them substantive awards, so we can make a dent in the cost of college because it is daunting,” former committee chair Suzanne Tiberii said.

Tiberii was introduced to the committee when her son, Jeff Tiberii, a WHS senior in 2002, applied for a scholarship. Jeff received the Mitchel Halperin award. Halperin was a WHS resident who had studied journalism at Syracuse University.

“Of course my son was thrilled about the money, but my husband and I were blown away because my son was poised to go to Syracuse University to study journalism,” Tiberii said. “Now, he has been a professional journalist for 16 years.”

After her son received his award, Tiberii wanted to help the committee in any way she could. She reached out to the then- chair of the committee, who encouraged her to join the group. That following fall, Tiberii joined the committee, where she served as secretary for her first year and then became the chair for the next 11 years.

“The connections we make [between seniors and named awards] have always been meaningful for me,” Tiberii said. “There are a lot of charities that families could have people donate to in honor of their loved one, so it means a lot to us on the scholarship committee when they choose us.”

The students receive the awards for their first year of college. Half of the money is given during the first semester, and the rest of the money is provided during the second semester. An appeal letter is sent out in the fall and the spring, asking donors and contributors to help the committee by making any size donation.

“Every single year that I have been on the committee, after every single interview that we do, we come together as a committee to talk about the fund matching,” Brown said. “We fight because we have kids that are so spectacular that we want to give them seven named awards.”

Brown’s job is to ensure that every student that earns an award receives an apt amount of money. To decide how much each student earns, they look at the family’s EFC (estimated family contribution). An EFC estimates how much a family will be able to pay for college. To apply for a WHS scholarship, a student’s EFC must be below $35,000. The committee then looks at the total cost of attendance for the student and subtracts that from the family’s EFC. The committee usually aims to give awards that are around 19% of the total. The awards range from $1,000 to $6,000 dollars, averaging around $2,500.

“I don’t think that people understand that in an affluent town, there still is need,” Brown said. “And it is important to note too that with their awards, we don’t want to give so much that we could impact someone’s financial aid, but we want to give enough to relieve some of that financial pressure.”

Just last year, the committee switched to an online version of the application hoping to make the process easier and encourage more seniors to apply.

“Every student that I have the good fortune to speak to restores my faith in humanity for the future, because you guys are awesome,””

— Jeanne Brown said.

“I had never heard of the WHS scholarship committee, but now that I have, I definitely want to apply for a scholarship,” senior Maya Lee said.

The application goes live on Jan. 1, and the deadline is March 31. Because they plan to receive more donations, the committee is hoping that more seniors will apply this year than in previous years.

“Every student that I have the good fortune to speak to restores my faith in humanity for the future because you guys are awesome,” Brown said. “You maintain a sense of humor and poise. I have kids, and I look at them and say ‘why are you not as poised as the kids I am speaking with?’ Meeting the kids really warms my heart.”

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