JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD In front of a fireplace, a small group of family and friends gathered May 29 to celebrate the academic accomplishments of military-related high school seniors and spouses at the Family Resource Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Students from every walk of life attended for the same reason from recent high school graduates, to college students continuing their education and Army spouses going back to school. They were all receiving scholarships from the Fort Lewis Family Member Scholarship Fund.
During the award ceremony, each recipient was called up to receive a certificate from members of the scholarship board, who appeared as excited as the students. They hugged and shook hands with the students, wishing them luck on their future endeavors.
Twenty-two students were awarded scholarships, from $2,500 to $750, to their chosen institutions.
The fund was created 20 years ago to help military family members reach their higher education goals, said Patty Hembree, scholarship coordinator.
Im happy to be a part of giving back to military families, because its hard for them to tap into financial aid when they are bounced around so much, Hembree said.
The scholarship fund relies on donations and fundraising. This year, they gathered $26,500 for students from organizations like the Lewis Community Spouses Club and the Lewis Thrift Shop.
When I opened my letter I started jumping, said Julie Lunney, a JBLM spouse who was awarded a scholarship of $1,500 to use at Brandman University. I love to be a role model for my kids. When they do homework, I can too. I want them to know anything worth having is worth working for.
Lunney wasnt the only one doing a victory dance when she got her letter; it was a common theme.
Me and my mom opened it together and she starting jumping, said Hannah Gienger, a recent high school graduate who was awarded $2,500 to use at Oregon State University studying biochemistry and pre-pharmacy. Its pretty cool being chosen along with everyone else here, after hearing all the stuff they did.
Gienger was referring to the chosen students impressive accomplishments; from volunteering at numerous organizations and being involved in school clubs, to their career choices to be doctors, surgeons, radiologists, writers and physical therapists.
Guest speaker, Norma Melo, school liaison officer on JBLM, shared words of encouragement and advice with all the students, who were starting new chapters in their lives. She told them being in a military family gave them an edge.
Those of you graduating high school have not known a world without a war, Melo said. You accomplished so much under hardships, and searched for new ways to grow personally and professionally. You already have the keys to entering college, and will be more qualified than most other entering freshman.