Scholarship Foundation has long invested in local grads

In 2022, the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation gave 198 scholarships to 104 recipients.

Back in 2007, Kelsey Kozak Killian received two scholarships from the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation.

Killian, who now co-owns Vashon’s only dairy farm, Venison Valley, with her husband Ben, appreciates how those scholarships — from the Beardsley Family and Thriftway — affected her path forward.

“They definitely provided a boost that helped me pursue the school of my choice,” says Killian. “The presentation ceremony made me feel like the school and the community sincerely wanted me to pursue my goals. I felt it was very positive encouragement.”

Her dream was to work in culinary arts. Following high school, she took a gap year and worked for ten months at Lark, a restaurant in Seattle, and then attended and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

“During that time I interned at the Restaurant at Meadowood, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Napa Valley,” she said. “Following graduation, I worked at several dairy farms, including a goat dairy in Hawaii, and then I worked as a cheesemaker at Kurtwood Farms for several years. In 2018, my husband and I received our Grade A license and began officially operating our farmstead dairy.”

Today, Venison Valley holds an important place in Vashon’s vibrant farming culture — an indication of how the Scholarship Foundation’s support became an important investment in the island’s future.

This kind of investment and social philanthropy has long been practiced by generous leaders and well-known families in the community.

When Norm and Jan Mathews opened Vashon Thriftway in 1965, serving the community was top-of-mind. They brought their family into the project and taught them that taking care of people was paramount. Almost 60 years later, the store still cares for its employees and the community it serves with Clay Gleb, Norm’s grandson, at the helm.

“Norm cared a lot about giving back to the island, especially to causes that directly benefit kids: youth sports, Vashon Youth & Family Services, Vashon Schools Foundation and the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation (VCSF) in particular,” said Gleb.

After Norm died last year, his family and friends established a new scholarship in his name.

Clay’s mother, Cheryl Mathews, still has her kids’ scholarship notebooks. She’s seen how special it is for them to be acknowledged and encouraged by the community.

But according to Cheryl, the main reason her family keeps supporting the scholarships is that doing so keeps important people and values in their hearts.

Important people are those who are remembered through the scholarships – like Norm Mathews. In addition, there’s a scholarship for Cheryl’s older brother Jay, who graduated from VHS in 1973 and died in his 20s of leukemia. Altogether the Mathews family is connected with three scholarships. Naturally, they wanted to honor the patriarch with a memorial scholarship.

That dedication to VCSF has proven an essential foundation for many Vashon high school graduates over the past three decades. The Mathews family is one of the dozens of island families that established generous scholarships for graduating seniors.

“These gifts can really make a difference for someone who is struggling to afford tuition, books or living expenses,” said VCSF Board President Beth Tuttle. “But the lasting gift comes from the message that the community really recognizes and supports each student in their journey. It’s like being sent off from the island with a big community hug.”

This year, that community support translated to 198 scholarships given to 104 recipients. Many students received more than one scholarship. There were 12 new scholarships this year, eight of which are in memoriam.

When a dedicated group of parents first organized the VCSF in 1986, they knew it was important to award a scholarship to every student. That tradition continues. Every single student who applies is awarded a scholarship, regardless of their grades, extra-curricular activities, or post-graduation education plans.

Each year in early spring, a community panel, the VCSF board and scholarship sponsors pores over scholarship notebooks, matching awards with applicants. Anyone who’s been part of this process can attest to how invested the group becomes in the students whose notebooks they’ve read.

In late May, Vashon’s high school graduates gather for a ceremony honoring their hard work with tributes and generous financial awards. The Vashon Community pledges to pay for a portion of every participating graduate’s school fees, whether at community college, trade school, or four-year university.

Killian shared these words of advice to 2022 recipients: “You should use the scholarship you receive both financially and as an encouragement to think about what you want for your future and to pursue your goals knowing the community is rooting for you.”

Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation invites islanders to join them in supporting the next generation of students who will be Vashon’s leaders, creators, thinkers and fixers.

To learn more or donate, go to vashonscholarship