For the past 50 years, our foundation has had the privilege to work alongside local philanthropists to give back to our community. A key element of our work is grounded in giving back to the area’s youth by partnering with local individuals and organizations to provide college scholarships to students in Northwest Ottawa County.

Education affordability is a significant issue for our local graduates. Improving the accessibility of post-secondary opportunities is a priority for the foundation. This year, we awarded scholarships to 224 students in the Northwest Ottawa County area, providing a total of $655,095 worth of assistance.

Something we prioritize in awarding scholarships is ensuring we recognize the challenges first-generation students face. First-gen students come from a home where neither parent or guardian attended college, or they attended but didn’t earn a bachelor’s degree.

Nationally, a third of first-gen students drop out of college, often because these students face struggles at a much higher rate than their non-first-generation peers—college readiness, college access and retention, financial stability, etc.—and many times, they continue to face challenges to their success once they enroll in college.

We believe this is an area where we can make a meaningful difference. This year, 80% of first-generation students who applied for a scholarship through the foundation received one—that’s 49 students—and we continue to look for ways to support these students in the future.

We heard from a recent high school graduate who received the Marion A. and Ruth K. Sherwood Scholarship for Medicine. This award will help her pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. As a first-gen student, she not only noted how impactful the scholarship was for her schooling, but she also acknowledged how this experience will inspire her to give back to her community whenever she can.

This student is just one example of the hundreds who will be able to pursue their dreams with less of a financial burden because individuals like the Sherwood’s make the decision to invest in future generations.

Dr. Larry Poel is another great example of a caring community member choosing to invest in our area’s youth. After being honored as an educator at our Excellence in Education Award Ceremony, he was inspired to establish the Dr. Larry Poel Field of Medicine Scholarship to continue his legacy of improving educational opportunities for the youth in our community.

We want to extend our deepest appreciation to our community partners and individuals, like Dr. Poel, who have established over 130 scholarship funds, for their contributions and dedication to our children. Through their generosity, hundreds of students are being supported and encouraged to pursue their education through scholarship awards.

Together, we have helped over 200 local students pursue their dreams this year because of the communities’ contributions to the foundation. Our supporters and partners are fostering academic achievement in our communities and are helping us build a legacy that will remain for years to come.

Look at what we have done. Imagine what we can do, together.

To learn more about the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation’s scholarships and how to donate or apply, please visit our scholarship page.