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Louise Wickstrom, who has been the Worthington Dollars for Scholars board’s secretary for 20 years, is retiring this spring from her long-standing role with the group. Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe

Dollars for Scholars to award $22,300 Wednesday

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WORTHINGTON — After 28 Worthington High School (WHS) seniors and recent alumni receive $22,300 toward their higher education expenses at a ceremony Wednesday, they won’t be the only ones bidding the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter a fond farewell.

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Louise Wickstrom, the local board’s faithful secretary for 20 years, will join them, as she is retiring from her long-standing role with the group this spring.

“It feels great to have contributed to the Dollars for Scholars program for that long,” attested Wickstrom, who was formerly an administrative secretary at WHS, making her Dollars for Scholars role a natural fit.

“Dollars for Scholars is a cause I really believe in, and I have enjoyed working at it.”

Since 1984, Worthington’s Dollars for Scholars chapter has given over $460,000 to roughly 1,200 WHS seniors, with average grant amounts in recent years ranging from $700 to $825 per awardee.

“We know it’s not a very large amount compared to students’ total educational expenses, but at least it helps them out and opens their eyes to other opportunities,” said Peggy Meier, Worthington chapter president.

Meier also praises Wickstrom for her years of dedication to the scholarship effort.

“We will miss Louise tremendously,” Meier said. “She did an awful lot to keep us and the program on track.

“The reason I stay involved is I believe firmly in making sure kids going to college get some help in paying for it,” Meier continued. “Education is expensive, and Dollars for Scholars is at least one way for kids to supplement their educational funds besides financial aid.”

In the 20 years Wickstrom has logged with the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter, she has witnessed progress in the board’s goal of expanding its endowment fund.

“We’re not quite as dependent now on annual contributions and fundraising events as we used to be, but more substantial gifts would really help build and sustain our program,” said Wickstrom.

Already a student advocate because of her work in the high school, Wickstrom became a lifelong devotee of Dollars for Scholars when one recipient’s reaction melted her heart.

“I remember one year a young man — I think he was of Vietnamese descent — received just $100 from us, but he was so thrilled,” recalled Wickstrom. “He walked around the room and shook hands with everyone he knew to be connected with Dollars for Scholars and said, ‘This means so much to me, thank you,’ over and over.

“That evening, I thought, ‘This is all worth it,’” Wickstrom said. “If there is just one student who feels that way, that’s what it’s all about.”

The Worthington chapter’s 11-member board annually seeks donations from individuals and businesses for the program, and also receives funds from promotions such as the “points sponsorships” to which local businesses contribute ($2 per touchdown at WHS home football games, 50 cents per point at WHS home basketball games).

In addition, the Worthington Dollars for Scholars board is grateful for the several endowed scholarships it has received and passes on to student recipients, among them the Anna Lois Shipman Memorial, the Mike Patrick/Milt Osterberg Endowed Scholarship, the Fredi Lowry/Doris Rubsam Memorial, and the Louise Mowrey/Georgia Entenza Scholarships.

An annual golf scramble — scheduled this year for June 23 — is another major fundraising push for Dollars for Scholars, but Wickstrom points out there are more golf tournaments now than when the organization began theirs well over a decade ago.

“I guess ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,’” laughed Wickstrom, “but there are so many golf tournaments now.”

Another reason Wickstrom stayed involved with Dollars for Scholars for two decades is that the organization rewards kids who excel academically.

“Years ago, the focus was more on just sports, and the academic part of school wasn’t always recognized as much as it is now,” said Wickstrom.

“The Dollars for Scholars ceremony and awards really celebrate academic achievement and provide a sense of support and encouragement for students as they go off to pursue higher education.”

Student applications for local Dollars for Scholars funds are evaluated anonymously at the non-profit Scholarship America office in St. Peter. They are ranked based on personal data, employment and extracurricular involvement, teacher appraisals, GPA and ACT scores.

“We’ve done that [sent the applications to the national headquarters for totally objective/blind evaluation] for about 10 years now,” said Wickstrom. “The applications were always reviewed anonymously, even before that, but this ensures there is no question of bias in the ratings process.”

The guest speaker at Wednesday evening’s ceremony will be Kim Hibma, a 2007 WHS alumna who applied her Dollars for Scholars award toward her Augustana College education; she is a 2011 graduate of that institution.

Hibma is now finishing her third year as a special education teacher at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School.

“It’s our hope that the students receiving these awards will, in the future, remember what was done for them and give something back to support other students at their alma mater,” said Meier.

Wickstrom concurred, saying, “At some of the ceremonies we’ve told the recipients, ‘When you become rich and famous, please remember us and contribute to your school and the WHS students who are coming up behind you.’”

The Dollars for Scholars ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the WHS cafeteria and is open to the public. For more information about or to sign up for the June 23 Dollars for Scholars Golf Tournament, contact either Dick Schlichte (376-3337) or John Standafer (329-6499). For information about volunteering with or donating to the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter, contact either Marilyn McDowell (372-5247) or Peggy Meier (372-4903) or visit Worthington-dollarsforscholars.org.

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