According to Sequim Education Foundation president Dick Hughes, the goal of the organization is to instill in Sequim students a desire to attend college.
"The reason we started (scholarship programs) was not so much to give kids money but to implant in their heads that they'll graduate from high school and go to college," Hughes explained. "Not 'I have to go' but 'I want to go.'"
To help support that goal, SEF is asking area businesses to partner with the foundation and contribute $250 per year, which will go to grants for teachers.
"SEF grants give teachers money needed for special activities to spark students' interest in learning," reads the foundation's flier introducing the new program.
Previous SEF grants resulted in students visiting Tacoma's museum district and providing bridge-building kits for a Sequim School District science class.
"We have a new theme and it's 'Let's all help Sequim students be successful,'" Hughes said. "This helps us do that."
SEF, which was founded in 2001, is introducing another new program this year, this one geared toward students. In October, the foundation will host the Engineering Challenge, open to students from kindergarten-12th grade. The challenge, an egg drop competition, asks children to package a raw egg so it will survive a 30-foot drop and remain unbroken.
"It will be interesting to see what the older kids come up with and what the younger kids come up with," Hughes said. The winners will receive scholarship awards and cash prizes.
Hughes said while SEF is trying to build support for the new programs, the old ones, such as the film festival contest, will continue to be in full swing.
In April, for the third year in a row, SEF plans to invite Sequim sixth-graders and high school students to film a five-minute video on a topic or theme of their choice. A total of $6,750 in scholarship money, for use at any college, university or technical college, will be awarded to the top three winning teams.
"What I'm hoping this whole thing is going to do is to help reduce the dropout rate by awarding scholarships that are only available if the student goes to secondary education," Hughes said. "We opened it up to the sixth-graders for that reason. We think it's important to start young."
SEF is collecting unused camcorders so they can loan them to students who want to make films for the competition but don't have access to video cameras.
It's important for the Sequim community to work together, Hughes said, to help inspire young children to want to graduate from high school and pursue college.
"Kids need to have higher aspirations and hope," he said. "We're trying to build up community support to help do that."
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