Scholarship Foundation always rises to the occasion

The reason that 2023 is especially sweet is that we’ll be together again.

Every year is a remarkable one for the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation (VCSF), but this year is especially sweet.

For 36 years, our organization, through the generosity of island community members, has had the same mission: to send island graduates off with support and love to pursue their future endeavors. It is a wonderful community gift that every community member can be a part of.

There are many scholarship programs, but the foundation program is a standout because every award is matched intentionally to each student and is sponsored by a myriad of community members, businesses, organizations, and nonprofits. Each award supports the individual student and the specific goals and ideas that they have shared through their writing in their notebooks.

Submitting all that is required is an introspective, courageous and sometimes difficult effort for the students. The notebooks consist of a photograph of the student, a resume of their accomplishments, activities and interests, an essay about their lives, their challenges, and how and where they would like to pursue their goals after high school.

There is also a copy of their transcripts and letters of recommendation, and finally, they create a photo and art collage of their experiences and passions. Every student that submits a completed notebook receives an award.

Each student’s notebook is read and reread by community scholarship sponsors, a panel of community members, and the VCSF scholarship board. Spreadsheets are made; discussions and round tables go on for hours — all to match the students with appropriate and meaningful awards.

Big-hearted community donors and sponsors make their contributions and submit their scholarship criteria in January and February, and individual donations to the general fund are used for scholarships with various criteria beyond those sponsored. Everything continues until all awards are matched as we head into May to complete our annual mission at the VCSF Awards Ceremony.

The reason that 2023 is especially sweet is that we’ll be together again.

The last time we had an in-person ceremony was in 2019. It was a wonderful “lovefest” (according to one recipient) held at Open Space for Arts and Community, enjoyed by 400 participants, and followed by cake. We booked Open Space once again for 2020. But Covid-19 had other plans.

The 2020 VCSF Awards Ceremony was a learning experience for us all. It was a full-blown live-stream production, with cameras, lights, sound, portable stages and a van full of electronics run by a production company. The venue was the front yard of a board member, and the May day was perfect, which was especially helpful because all 25 participants had to be masked and outdoors. We were not about to change our mission, though: 98 students received $164,950 in awards from our community.

The next year, in 2021, we went straight to the live-stream option, which was broadcast from the Open Space and involved many of the same 2020 masked participants. Still, 91 students received $188,300 from our community.

Last year, we tried to tiptoe back into the water. We figured we could go beyond assembling 25 people but could not responsibly take it back to 400 attendees, so we planned a “hybrid” ceremony- in person and live streamed.

In attendance would be the 100 student award recipients and the presenters, production crew and VCSF board; everyone else would watch from home. The venue was the Vashon High School lunchroom because we could open the giant windows and doors. It was all coming together nicely. Prom had been the weekend before, though, and COVID apparently joined the dance. Just hours before going “live,” we had to pull the plug and resort to live-steaming the event only. Still, mission accomplished: 104 students received $ 208,860.

So here we are in 2023, and our mission remains the same. Every Vashon student that submitted a completed notebook will receive an award, thanks to you, our amazing community.

We plan to be back in full at Open Space and live streaming for others interested. We will get to celebrate in person with 98 scholarship recipients and their families, community presenters, community donors and panel members, EnJoy Productions, Voice of Vashon, VCSF Board members, a record $240,000 in awards, and forty-two dozen (homemade) cookies.

The 2023 awards ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 25, in person for recipients, families and scholarship donors. All others are invited to join via live stream at

Stephanie VanDevanter is a VCSF Board Member.