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Nevada County students receive more than $800,000 in scholarships

Tom Durkin
Staff Writer

Not all scholarships go to the top students or athletes.

Local businesses and nonprofits give money to many different students for a variety of reasons.

Linda Melugin, scholarship coordinator for the Nevada Joint Union High School District, reported 187 scholarships are being awarded this year to students in the district’s six high schools (Nevada Union, Bear River, Ghidotti, Silver Springs, NU Tech and North Point).

“Typically NJUHSD awards over $800,000 in scholarships each year, which are one-time and multi-year (such as The Ghidotti Scholarship, which awards for four years),” Melugin said in an email.

In its 30-year history, the Ghidotti Foundation has given $4 million in college scholarships, she said. By way of comparison, she stated the four high schools in the Rocklin Unified School District in Placer County disbursed about $150,000 in scholarships.

“I am so proud,” said Melugin, an NU graduate. “We’re in such a luxury situation of having a community that is rich in heart and spirit.”

“We have approximately 12+/- donors who award over $23,000 in scholarships to the Nevada County Campus of Sierra College,” wrote Anna Culbertson, program associate for the Sierra College Foundation. “Scholarships range from $400 to $2,000.”

“Our kids are going to colleges all over the place,” said Tina Dreschler, college and career counselor for Forest Lake Christian High School.

Because the school has been closed since mid-March, Dreschler said she has been unable to total the number of scholarships awarded by local entities. She did note that the Ghidotti Foundation awarded at least one scholarship to a Forest Lake Christian student this year.

“Most of our scholarships come from private colleges and are awarded on merit,” she said.

Because scholarships were planned before the pandemic, there was no indication on the number or amount of scholarships impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus.


Nonprofits as diverse as the Roamin’ Angels car club, all five county Rotary Clubs, Lyman Gilmore Middle School Alumni, Lake of the Pines Women’s Golf Club, American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Engineers Association of Nevada County all award scholarships to local students.

Additionally, there are more than 50 memorial scholarships given this year, according to a list provided by Melugin.

This year, the Nevada City Merry Widows Society awarded $7,000 to five single-parent students at Sierra College, according to MaryAnn Crabb, CEO of the nonprofit group.

Two $2,000 scholarships were awarded to nursing students, and three business students received $1,000 each, Crabb said. In its 25-year history, the Merry Widows — whose members are not all widows and not all women — have granted more than $100,000 to assist single-parents students.

While some scholarships are non-renewable, the Merry Widows will continue to support promising students like Kara Reyes, a three-time winner of a Merry Widows scholarship. A disabled, single mother of three, Reyes, 40, has overcome numerous obstacles in her life, including domestic violence, to pursue a nursing degree.

The Widows are not the only ones who have faith in Reyes. Because of assistance from organizations like Community Beyond Violence, Granite Wellness, Project Heart, FREED, Care Program, Disabled Students Program at Sierra College, California Department of Rehabilitation, Soroptimists, American Association of University Women, and the Widows, Reyes said, “I am able to pursue a life that I didn’t think was possible for a girl whose reality existed of broken bones and black eyes.”

Attaining a 3.86 grade point average at Sierra College, Reyes said she plans to earn a registered nurse degree from Sacramento State University and go into clinical research or public health.

“Our scholarship program may seem to be somewhat gender-biased, but that certainly is not the case,” Crabb wrote in a recent edition of the Merry Widow Gazette.

“We’ve only had two male applicants in all these years, and both single-parent fathers were awarded scholarships,” she said.

Speaking of the pandemic shutdown of schools, Crabb said, “I will miss meeting the recipients and their children. I like to tell the kids what smart cookies I think their parents are. It’s so heartwarming to see the look of pride in a child’s eye!”

The Friendship Club awarded scholarships to nine students this year.

“Scholarships typically range from $250 to $1,000 per year for up to four years per girl,” said Jennifer Singer, executive director of the 25-year-old organization that serves and supports disadvantaged and at-risk girls.

“Scholarships are trust-based, meaning that as long as they are in school, they get the money,” Singer said. How they use the cash award is up to recipients.

Scholarship winners typically receive payouts twice per year, contingent on maintaining a 2.0 grade point average or the equivalent, she said.

Singer emphasized the scholarships don’t have to be used for college. “Every child takes a different and sometimes circuitous path through their education, so not every girl takes advantage of a four-year opportunity. Some do 18-month (vocational) programs, some stop after two years at Sierra,” she said.

This is the first year the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation is awarding scholarships, said Wendy Willoughby, president of the foundation.

Three graduating seniors who spent the majority of their K-8 years at Grass Valley Charter School are receiving modest cash grants, said Willoughby, who is also managing director of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.

The scholarship winners wrote essays on how Grass Valley Charter prepared them for life in high school and beyond, she said.


Both Crabb of the Merry Widows and Singer of the Friendship Club credited local businesses for making scholarships possible, especially when so many fundraisers have been canceled.

“We couldn’t have done this without the patronage of our wonderful local businesses and acquaintances,” Crabb wrote in the Merry Widow Gazette.

Some 50 or more scholarships are in memory of those who have passed.

State Farm insurance agent Mike Bratton established the Michael Edward Bratton II Foundation after his son committed suicide more than 14 years ago.

The annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot fun run is a fundraiser for the MEB II Foundation. “We raise about $50,000 to $60,000 each year,” Bratton said.

Most of the money goes toward suicide prevention, but $2,000 is reserved for a football scholarship, Bratton said. Michael Bratton II was a Nevada Union graduate who returned as an adult to become a football coach at NU before he died.

While some businesses donate money to service organizations, others offer direct scholarships.

For the last 15 years, Siteline Architecture of Nevada City has presented a $500 grant to a promising student looking to go into architecture or a related field, said Richard Baker, a partner in the firm.

Baker said he and his partners Andrew Pawlowski and Christopher Gage look for a student who is passionate about architecture and is community minded.

Grades are not a major deciding factor, Baker noted, but need is. If finalists are equally matched, Baker said, “I tend to go with the student with the greater need.”

If there is any good news in this pandemic-plagued graduation year of canceled ceremonies and fundraisers, it’s that Nevada County students received as much financial assistance from local nonprofits and businesses as they would have in a normal year.


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Tom Durkin is a staff writer for The Union.

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