Thanks, scholarship hunters

Almost half of Central High graduates will receive aid because of a dedicated committee.

Published May 17, 2007

BROOKSVILLE -- Once a month at Central High School, parents stalk kids between classes.

They phone them, bug them, even mail them literature.

Their reward this spring: $4.8-million in scholarship offers. Out of 393 graduates this spring, nearly half got one.

On Wednesday, one senior went out of her way to make sure that members of Central's scholarship committee knew how much they were appreciated.

Taryn Miller single-handedly rounded up donations of coffee, fruit and pastries to throw a surprise breakfast for the eight parents on the committee who took on the cause of making sure students could afford further education.

"You would see such a huge decline in the amount of money kids are getting if you guys weren't here," she said.

Principal Dennis McGeehan told the committee it plays a vital role at the school by helping students find scholarships and meet application deadlines.

"That frees up the counselors so they can sit down with a child in need," he said. "Thanks again for what you've done, all of you."

Guidance counselor Jackie Major said the committee serves as a virtual extension of her staff, taking the time to get to know students and find out which scholarships suit them.

The department has helped develop a district database filled with grants. But many could be overlooked without the extra help, she said.

"The scholarships we know they'd like, we just ship them off to them," said parent Sue Martin.

"They just pull you in," added Miller, marveling at the parents' ability to match students with obscure scholarships. "They know who are the athletic ones; they know I volunteer."

That knowledge base has also saved parents money and time on the cost of their own searching, Major said.

"We've had parents who came in and spent $650 on a private scholarship search," said committee chairwoman Patti Jachimowicz. "And they couldn't afford that."

While students received $4.8-million in scholarship offers, Major said the actual amount they accepted is closer to $3.6-million because some students must choose between competing offers from schools.

And each dollar is exciting, said Miller, who won a pile of grants and even a donated car. She'll drive it to the University of Tampa this fall.

"I feel like my essay (for a scholarship) was worth $500," she said. "I mean, an 'A' is nice, but ..."

She didn't have to finish the thought. Her smile said it all.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.