As the remaining school days begin to dwindle and students yearn to escape the classroom confines in search of the beach, many Santa Barbara High seniors look ahead to their newest and most daring adventure yet: college. While the countdown to graduation offers excitement, it can also be a source of fear for students who face financial stress now that college is upon them. Each year, the Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association works to ease this financial burden through their scholarship program that awards talented students who are furthering their education.
The Santa Barbara High School Alumni Association was formed in 1975 as a means of supporting SBHS students, staff, and alumni. The association funds campus beautification projects, maintains the Veterans’ Memorial, coordinates reunions, sells SBHS merchandise, awards the annual Distinguished Alumni Award, and inducts five alumni into the “Wall of Fame” annually.
Every year, the Alumni Association awards around 55 scholarships to graduating seniors and around 30 to alumni who are furthering their education through college, vocational school, and certification programs. Alumni Association president Helen Murdoch calls the scholarship program the association’s “most important and fulfilling work.” SBHS alumni, staff, families, and community members donate money in honor of classmates, teachers, coaches, or a whole class to fund the scholarships. Currently, graduate students receive $5,000 while undergraduates and graduating seniors receive $3,000. Applicants for the Alumni Scholarship fill in an application that includes basic information about community service, activities at SBHS, and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from a student’s FAFSA form. Following their application, applicants interview with the Alumni Association in February before notifications go out in the spring. While the scholarship eases financial burdens for students, the Alumni Association also hopes to forge a connection between graduating seniors and the high school. As Murdoch said, “We hope the students will feel a connection to SBHS [and] the alumni community … Students tell us that our scholarship, in conjunction with other financial aid, has enabled them to attend a 4-year college and not worry as much about money. For some, it means they don’t have to work as many hours at a side job in college.”
This year’s ceremony celebrating the Alumni Scholarship recipients took place on May 7 in the SBHS quad, where recipients were introduced in front of a crowd of fellow students, family, and teachers. The graduating senior winners are announced along with their college of choice and then are given a lifetime membership to the Alumni Association, an All Dons Reunion pin, and a certificate showing which scholarship they’ve received. The ceremony is followed by a reception of cake and food from alumni-owned Tino’s Italian Grocery. When describing this year’s scholarship recipients, Murdoch said, “This year’s applicants, like most years, are involved at SBHS, kind, smart, and give us hope for the future … [They are] caring. I see so many students volunteering, supporting teammates/castmates/friends, and being inquisitive. The Dons spirit is one of giving and caring for others so it’s great to see that tradition continue.”
With the help of the Alumni Association, many seniors are now able to further their educational goals due to the scholarship program. Senior Anya McCue applied for the Alumni Scholarship earlier in the school year, and was “pleasantly surprised” to find out she had received it. McCue is an active member of the Santa Barbara High community, and contributes to ASB, The Forge, and the dance program. McCue says she applied for the scholarship because she was “aware how expensive college is, and so I was trying to apply to as many scholarships as I could … and the Alumni Scholarship is definitely the most local you can get with a scholarship, it’s literally on campus!” Combined with grants and financial aid, the Alumni Scholarship is allowing McCue to attend UC Berkeley for “almost free.” McCue says, “I love the Alumni Association … especially since I’m involved in a lot of things anyways, so it was … cool to talk to them about what I’ve been up to at Santa Barbara High … especially in the interview … So it definitely makes me feel connected to them.”
The Santa Barbara High Alumni Association offers financial relief and community connection through their generous scholarship programs. As our graduating Dons move onto the next part of their educational journeys, many will have the continued memory of the school and Alumni Association that helped to ensure their success after high school.
[Image credit: Helen Murdoch]