How Dreams are Funded: The Scholarship Selection Process

Countless hours note taking, hundreds of post it notes flagging, computer screens glaring, and coffee, coffee, coffee: the life of a scholarship selection committee member over the last four to five weeks. 54 volunteers from the industry's north and south regions have taken on the meaningful and laborious role of effectively analyzing which students will be awarded scholarships in 2016. The task has not been taken lightly, as they are rooting for the success of every student. As WAEF approaches the final weeks of the selection process, you might be wondering how the decisions were made. Here is a picture of a typical student selection meeting.

Each of the 13 sub-committees holds three to five members. The committee members are provided with assigned student applications and awards.  After an initial one-hour training, they begin the decision making process in their own homes using excel documents and other materials provided to them by WAEF. After reviewing on their own, the sub-committees meet where they determine the recipients for each award.  This process involves a review of the student specific to the donor provided guidelines communicating priorities for each award.  Depending on the number of awards offered by each particular scholarship fund and the size of the candidate pool, committee members select their top one through five candidates for the award.  At times the top candidates are unanimous throughout the group, but sometimes committee members lobby for their top selection. Committee members have difficulty selecting their top candidates as they form emotional connections and ties, but want to be fair with their reasons for selecting said students for the awards. In other words: decisions are not easily made. When the top candidate is unanimous, they are the recipient of the award, and then the same process ensues for the alternate. Alternates and other top candidates not selected to receive a scholarship are showcased on the Wish List.  The Wish List is then distributed to current and potential donors with a request to consider sponsoring one or more of the outstanding students.

The final request of committee members is to provide valued information and input on the selection process for 2017. They are asked to analyze the flow of the application, identify trouble areas and provide examples of short answer and essay questions for the 2017 application. Additionally, each committee member provides a list of their top 20 overall students from their regions. The top 20 lists are merged to determine who are the top contenders are and if they are getting awarded appropriately. From there, representative from each sub-committee meet for one final selection meeting to determine the final list of recipients and craft the 2017 application.

Committee Members (past and present years) were asked to provide us with quotes on why they decided to get involved in the WAEF's scholarship selection process, what they find rewarding, and what excites them about the process. Read what they said below:

It is truly humbling to see how students are able to achieve so much with so many hurdles to overcome. I am impressed to see so much drive and determination to reach for their goals and to better themselves through higher education.  -Bart Gebers, Wenatchee

I love doing scholarships because it is rewarding to see how the students are looking forward and making plans for their futures. We know plans change, but through WAEF we can be a positive influence through the scholarships. -Diane Peebles, Chelan

Serving on the scholarship committee for WAEF is rewarding. I believe my volunteer service has a real impact for the families and youth associated with our industry. Volunteers are critical partners of the scholarship process and I deem it a great investment of my time. I am proud to support WAEF's mission to offer students scholarship opportunities for trade school or university. -Gail Foreman, Wenatchee


I find the selection process rewarding because it gives me a window into many of the applicants struggles, successes, and their determination.  It shows if someone stays focused on their goals, they can achieve them, and it's nice to know that we are helping them achieve their goals.-Pam Van Winkle, Wenatchee

When you see the incredible amount of very talented and hardworking students, it makes me optimistic for our future. The most rewarding aspect is that you are making a difference in young people lives, particularly those students who are the first in their families to attend college. The difficult part is that you have to say no to deserving students. -Jack Toevs, Quincy

I have participated in the selection process for the Washington Fruit scholarships for several years.  It never fails that at the end of the interview process I am so amazed and excited about the quality of the students that have applied for the assistance.  I am amazed at the adversity that some of the students face and their commitment to reach their goals of going to college.  Many of the students are the first in their families to attend college, and are doing so, in part, to demonstrate to younger siblings that it can be done. -Tony Klein, Yakima

I do look forward to the scholarship process every year. It is a time that I am reminded of the sacrifice many of these students go through to get a premium education. Many of the stories you hear are heart breaking, yet these kids long for a better life and an opportunity to be a contributing part of our community. I am proud to be associated with the W.A.E.F. even if it is in small way.-Bret Pittsinger, Wenatchee

I always found it very rewarding to know there were many scholarship recipients who were being given an opportunity they would not have had otherwise.  The ones I personally enjoyed awarding were those which were dependent on scholarships or working themselves to attain their dreams of an education.
-Barbara Walkenhauer, Yakima

I graduated from college about forty three years ago.  My great, great, grandparents immigrated from Germany to the United States of America and settled in Indiana and farmed the land.  My father was able to attend school through the eighth grade.  My mother graduated from high school.  The scholarship applications I review remind me of my journey. -Stan Scheumann, Orondo

Being a part of the WAEF scholarship selection process has made me more aware of the large number of qualified, deserving college bound students, who've grown up in the apple industry, seeking financial assistance to better their lives.  WAEF scholarships help many dreams come true, while often breaking a cycle of poverty. -Julie Allen, Naches

I look forward to reviewing the scholarships each year because it helps me learn about current challenges and obstacles the children of our tree fruit industry families are facing.  To know we are making a difference by taking time to review the scholarships and speak on behalf of our selection committee and our youth is rewarding. -Heather Mendoza, Sunnyside

What excites me is that the industry is truly interested in their employees who make this industry possible. Being able to be part of a scholarship process that enables their children to follow their dreams is what I think is most important. -Pat Bossen, Wenatchee

What I like best about volunteering for WAEF is the opportunity to give back and see the progress with the individual students. -Pat Sax, Wenatchee


 Thank you to the volunteers who served on the scholarship selection committees for their hard work, responsibility, and care for this years' student selections!