In the face of an uncertain school year, area seniors continued to strive and grow as students and young adults. Their graduation this spring is a hallmark of their tenacity and excellence, and their future, with goals in mind, is destined to be bright.

The Community Foundation for Oceana County (CFOC) shares pride in their accomplishments and, along with donors, are excited to offer financial support to help them along their way.

CFOC’s 2020 Scholarship Program awarded 139 Oceana County students with 189 scholarships this fall, for a total investment of $218,850,. This year’s graduating seniors represent the highest percentage of students applying to CFOC’s scholarship program. A total of 36 percent of the graduating class applied — a massive growth from 2012’s 17 percent. In addition, 40.17 percent are first-generation students, over double the number of first-generation applicants in 2014. The foundation’s 43 scholarship funds are made possible by a mix of individuals, couples, families, clubs and schools, held and managed by the foundation.

“Our very first fund in 1989 was a scholarship fund,” explained foundation CEO Tammy Carey. “Helping our kids, our future, is a priority for many of our donors. Maybe it is small town culture, but this community is very willing to roll up its sleeves and create positive community change. Our donors are making a difference in student potential every day.”

New funds are often added to the program, including two so far in 2020. One of these is the Thomas Schaner Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of Thomas Schaner who passed away earlier this year.

As a member of the Pentwater Civic Band, the West Shore Woodwinds and the Scottville Clown Band, Schaner enjoyed sharing his love of music with Oceana County. He was a life-long resident in the community, first as a graduate of Hart High School and then through his longtime barber shop in Shelby.

The Thomas Schaner Memorial Scholarship Fund was developed within the foundation by family and friends in his honor. Scholarships will award learners at any point in their journey, including returning adults who share his passions for music, the skilled trades or emergency response. The scholarship fund honors Thomas’s life with the promise of helping Oceana residents to continue his legacy of working locally to assist those around them for a better tomorrow.

Second, the Christopher Schaner Memorial Scholarship Fund was created in remembrance of Christopher’s life. His family and friends established the fund within the foundation for graduates of Hart High School, encouraging applicants to share in their essay responses how mental health affects their lives and those of their peers.

The Christopher Schaner Memorial Scholarship Fund strives to engage students in the discussion, and to explore mental health within the community. It is a conversation that aches to be brought into the open to help students better understand the complex world around them. In honoring Christopher’s life, this scholarship encourages students to think deeply and critically about mental health and how people can foster student well being for all.

For more information about making a gift, now or through an estate plan, creating a named fund at the foundation, or to learn more about new scholarship programs under consideration, call Carey at 231-869-3377. To see the full list of 2020 scholarship recipients visit https://oceanafoundation.org/scholarships/recent-scholarship-recipients/.