Every spring in Menomonee Falls, high school seniors prepare for the big awards night. By this time, they’ve probably made up their mind about where they’re headed for college, but the reality of financing their higher education is likely something yet to be grasped.

Admittedly, as a high school senior and first-generation college graduate myself, I had no idea what I was in for. After my scholarships seemed to barely put a dent into what I needed for college tuition, I signed away my life — or so it seemed — to any loan provider who agreed to help me get through college, at virtually whatever interest rate.

I just had to get that diploma.

The Menomonee Falls Scholarship and Educational Foundation helps pave the path for the continued success of graduating seniors by running the awards evening and fundraising for these scholarships every year.

The foundation was started in 1987 by former high school principal Richard Woosencraft and 1975 graduate Cathy Hazard. That first year, the foundation raised $2,000 for seniors attending college, technical school, or any post high school programs.

Last November, the foundation set a record and raised $85,000, $65,000 of which went directly to students, a 10-percent increase from the year prior.

While grades, essays, and school choice are some criteria considered when giving the scholarships, one of the things I find most remarkable about the foundation is they also make sure to award scholarships based on most improved students.

Adam Bartos graduated in 2008 and went on to get a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in business and psychology. He now serves as the treasurer for the foundation.

He received $1,500 in scholarships during the awards night his senior year. Like many high school students, the financial burden of college is something that took him time to fully understand.

“It really catches up to you quickly how helpful the scholarships really are and how big of a deal it really is, so I think it’s one of those things I learned the importance of as I went on,” Bartos said. “It was something I wish I had learned day one, but admittedly I didn’t. In hindsight, and with the perspective of being on the board, I think something that really resonated with me as a student going to Menomonee Falls High School is the unbelievable amount of money that’s given every year by the board, community stakeholders and by businesses and alums.”

Now in his third year on the board, Bartos said the foundation helps create the culture of continuous education that the Menomonee Falls School District is known for.

“I think it goes hand-in-hand with the culture of Menomonee Falls High School; it’s very future- and preparation-focused,” Bartos said. “They’re always thinking of that next step, and by having hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money available to their graduating seniors, it reinforces that culture of continued education and preparing for the next step in life.”

Bartos said he hopes the board can raise awareness beyond those stakeholders who already have their foot in the door, who also call Menomonee Falls home.

“From my perspective as far as where we go next as a board, we have such amazing support in the community from our teachers and administration staff, families and alum, I think we would be thrilled to continue that success with those who don’t have a direct tie to the high school, so young professionals or young couples who are starting a family in the Falls, but didn’t go through the system themselves,” Bartos said.

For more information on the Menomonee Falls Scholarship and Educational Foundation, visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FallsScholarship.

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