WAEF staff gave a big sigh of relief earlier this month when we got to turn over the nearly 300 scholarship applications to our dedicated group of scholarship volunteers. For the next few weeks, volunteers will be studying applications, ranking the full group based on a matrix of financial need, scholastic achievement, extracurricular and leadership activities and overall character and values and identifying top candidates for each of the over 120 specific scholarship award funds WAEF manages.
While 300 complete applications might not sound like much, nearly four and a half cases of paper (45 reams) were utilized to prepare copies of the applications for our 57 scholarship selection committee members and four outside selection bodies. Selection committee members are divided into groups of three to five. Each of the groups is assigned the same group of students and the same group of awards.
Each committee member works independently on their applicant reviews. They then bring their observations and formal rating back to the group where they deliberate on the best candidates matching donor established criteria for each award. A few committees are assigned a group of students to interview for some specific WAEF scholarships that require a bit more information than what can be gleaned from the paper applications.
With a higher number of scholarships to award and students to consider, our scholarship selection committee continues to grow. This year we were so excited to welcome nine alumni to the committee! The first comment generally made by alumni after their first scholarship selection committee meeting is something like this, “I had no idea how much work went in to selecting me for my scholarship!” WAEF students should feel proud of the awards they receive – decisions are not taken lightly.
Who else serves on the WAEF selection committee? 46 of this year’s 57 members are returning committee members. Our farthest north member resides in Brewster and our farthest south in Richland. The vast majority of our members are employed or have ownership interest in the tree fruit industry. 11 members are current or former members of the WAEF board of directors. WAEF board member Cory Groves, general manager of Spinner Wood Products in Naches, is the chairman of our scholarship committee. He has served in this role for six years.
This year we were delighted to see the number of vocational applicants more than double! This has been a push at WAEF for the past three years. Selection committee members for this group meet in mid-April. At that time we’ll know if we have enough vocational scholarship funds to assist this group of individuals with high potential to return to the tree fruit industry. (If you’re interested in supporting vocational scholarships, please reach out to me at Jennifer.email@example.com. I think applicants look great and we may need help to boost the funding pool to capture all of the top candidates.)
Last year the tree fruit industry exceeded an amazing milestone for students in our communities, the awarding of over $1 million in scholarships. 236 students shared in this impressive, generous gift from industry members. Our goal and strong desire is to repeat that event again this year.
Early next week we will begin notifying students involved in interviews of early award decisions. The next group of notifications occurs in mid-May. Throughout these next six weeks, committee members and staff will be very busy making sure we hit the $1 million tree fruit industry scholarship benchmark again this year and that we capture as many deserving students as possible with tree fruit industry scholarships.
If you have questions about WAEF scholarships, the scholarship process or how to establish your own scholarship, we welcome the chance to visit with you! Please contact Jennifer at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 663-7713.