Fund driver for Coon Rapids scholarships

The annual fund drive for scholarships to be awarded to Coon Rapids High School (CRHS) seniors has started.

The Coon Rapids Community Scholarship Association (CRCSA), which has been presenting scholarships to CRHS students since the school’s first graduating class of 1966, officially kicked off its 2013 fund-raising campaign April 1.

“This year we are going to exceed $3 million in scholarship awards since 1966,” said Bruce Frank, the association’s volunteer executive director.

Frank, who has been involved with the association since 1977 as president, board member and now executive director, said he never thought that milestone would be achieved.

Letters have gone out to businesses, organizations, individuals and alumni seeking scholarships.

According to Frank, the recession has hit scholarship donations in recent years and he hopes that as the economy improves, contributions to the association and scholarships will pick up.

“Any amount is appreciated, $25, $50 or $100,” Frank said. “It all adds up.”

In 2012, the association awarded 140 scholarships to graduating seniors totaling $136,800.

As an example of the impact of the recession, Frank said figures show that in 2007, 35 percent of CRCSA scholarship recipients went to private colleges/universities; in 2012, that number was down to 16 percent.

“That tells us that the cost of higher education is going up a lot faster than the cost of living,” he said.

But people often don’t realize the cost of post-secondary education until their son or daughter is planning to go to college, Frank said.

“Then reality strikes them in the face,” he said.

The association tries to do as much as it can to make the money it raises stretch as far as it can to help as many students as possible each year, according to Frank.

Scholarships can be used at both two-year colleges and four-year colleges/universities, Frank said.

“We try to help CRHS students get to college, get an education, then return to the community to get a job,” he said.

The association’s minimum scholarship award is $550.

But they can be as high as $2,000 depending on how well the student meets the scholarship criteria, Frank said.

That compares to $25 to $50 scholarship presented in the 1960s, enough to pay for a tank of gas to get to some colleges and universities, he said.

The association’s criteria for scholarship awards is two-fold – two-third based on the student’s academic record in their four years at the high school and one-third on their school and community activities, Frank said.

For example, students get points for involvement in school extra-curricular activities as well as points for volunteer work in the community, like at their church, he said.

Financial need is not used as a basis for awarding scholarships, although most of the students receiving scholarships have a need, Frank said.

“We don’t believe that we should be asking to review parents’ tax returns,” he said,

“That’s between parents and the government.”

In May, the association board of directors determines the amount of money  that is available for scholarships, according to Frank.

Then board members sift through the applications – the names of the students are not identified – starting with those that have gained the most points through the criteria and on through the list until the money runs out, Frank said.

That means that not all students that apply for CRCSA scholarships get one, he said.

He receives thank you letters all the time from students who have been awarded CRCSA scholarships and what that has meant to them, Frank said.

Steven Hanson, a 2012 graduate who is attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to study electrical engineering, is a recent example.

In his letter to the association, Hanson writes that his college experiences is going well and he was able to play on the football team as the only player from Minnesota and he was “so proud to represent Coon Rapids.”

“I would like to thank you all again for the wonderful work you do establishing these scholarships for Coon Rapids graduates,” he writes.

“They are truly helpful in assisting us reach our goals for the future.

“I hope one day I am able to support a student reach for his dreams through a Coon Rapids scholarship.”

For more information contact Frank at 763-755-5550.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]