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Entenza visits WHS

DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza, who grew up in Worthington, stands in front of Dollars for Scholars recipients during a program Monday night at Worthington High School.

Worthington chapter awards $23,500 to 31 students Monday

WORTHINGTON - If anyone can appreciate the true value of a Dollars for Scholars award, it's 1979 Worthington High School (WHS) alumnus Matt Entenza.

"I started college at Augustana with a scholarship based on my high school debate experience," detailed Entenza, the guest speaker at last night's ceremony recognizing the 31 students who are receiving $23,500 in scholarships this year from the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter. "I also worked at Red Owl, picked rock, walked beans and detassled corn to get through college."

"But Worthington is the kind of town where the sky's the limit, and tonight I want you to think of the great opportunities in front of you."

With scholarship amounts this year ranging from $500 to $1,250, most of the soon-to-be high school graduates benefiting from the local Dollars for Scholars program will likely also find themselves working a variety of odd jobs to completely fund their higher educations.

Entenza, however, serves as a living reminder that the hard work pays off, obstacles can be overcome and the support of others makes all the difference.

"I had a lot of good teachers who leaned on me and said, 'You can make something of yourself,'" stressed Entenza. "Be sure you thank your folks, because your parents make more sacrifices for you than you'll ever appreciate. These scholarships help you know you come from a place that supports you, from a town that gives people opportunities and says everyone can achieve."

Entenza, an honors graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School who served six terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives and was House Minority Speaker from 2003-06, is currently a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. When Entenza was in his early teens, his alcoholic, indebted father abandoned the family.

Entenza's mother then took her three children home to Worthington to live with their grandmother, Louise Mowrey, a longtime First State Bank of Rushmore (now First State Bank Southwest) employee. It is in honor of his mother, Georgia Entenza, and late grandmother that Entenza and his wife, Marshall native Lois Quam, gave endowed scholarship funds totaling $100,000 to the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter in 2005.

That gift, which now provides two $1,250 scholarships to WHS graduates annually, is one of many from individuals and businesses that keep the local program ticking.

Since the chapter's reorganization in 1998, more than $245,000 in scholarships has been distributed to 413 local graduates.

"We are grateful for the donations made by so many, and all of the money given for this cause shows the community supports the youth of Worthington," observed Chuck Moore, chapter president, echoing Entenza's message. "The scholarships are a genuine acknowledgment of students' achievements, and having put two kids of my own through college, I know that parents really appreciate any amount their kids can get in scholarship funding."

Students wishing to be considered for a Dollars for Scholars award must complete applications, which are then sent on to the non-profit Scholarship America office in St. Peter where they are evaluated anonymously. Students are ranked based on personal data, employment and extracurricular involvement, teacher appraisals, class GPA and ACT scores.

"It's a very fair process, and we don't even know who the students are until after we have figured out how much money our chapter has available to award in a given year and how it will be allocated," said Moore.

Along with the other local Dollars for Scholars officers -- vice-president Beth Radloff, treasurer Marilyn McDowell and secretary Louise Wickstrom -- Moore is pleased by the community's ongoing and generous response to the program, although he would like to see others follow Entenza's lead in making an endowed gift.

"Our endowment has grown slowly since it was established in 2003," explained McDowell. "Anyone making a gift of over $5,000 has the opportunity to create a perpetual endowed scholarship in honor or memory of a loved one, or perhaps in honor of a favorite teacher.

"Generally, our goal is to build the endowment so we are able to award significant scholarships to all graduating students who want to continue their educations."

One popular fundraiser is an annual golf tournament (four-person scramble format), scheduled this year for June 30 at the Worthington Country Club. Participants receive dinner and are eligible for door prizes, while winning teams earn pro shop bucks.

"We're still looking for golfers, hole sponsors, door prizes and volunteers," noted Moore. "It's a great event that helps make these annual scholarships possible."

Katie Fleming was one smiling senior who, at the close of last night's ceremony volunteered, "I'm really grateful for the amount of money I've received. I feel very supported because it seems like it comes from everyone."

That's a sentiment Entenza urged this group of students to remember and build on.

"The sacrifices people made before you, and for you, are things you need to give back, whether that's through church, community or even politics," exhorted Entenza.

He noted when the citizens of his Norwegian immigrant great-great-grandparents' rural community finally had a little extra, they didn't immediately spend it on themselves but pooled their meager resources to build, first, a church and then a school.

"They knew their mission was to make sure the next generation did better," suggested Entenza. "We should remember we're part of something bigger than ourselves and we're not just here to do well at the expense of others."

Although for Entenza the evening was largely a break from the gubernatorial campaign trail -- a time for reminiscing about lunches eaten and plays acted in the same WHS cafeteria where he addressed the imminent graduates -- he did share this thought at the end of the night:

"I want to make sure Minnesota will have a governor who won't forget where he came from."

For more information about the June 30 Dollars for Scholars golf tournament, or about volunteering with or donating to the Worthington Dollars for Scholars chapter, contact Chuck Moore (372-2610) or Marilyn McDowell (372-5247).