The Saratoga Sun -

By Liz Wood 

Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation offers scholarships for at risk students

 


High school seniors are busy filling our scholarship applications, but for the at risk student, it can be difficult to qualify.

That is where Susan Thomas is filling the gap with the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation.

Susan Thomas stopped in Saratoga last month to visit with Dan Marquart, the Saratoga Middle/High School Counselor to tell him about the scholarship that at risk students can apply for.

Craig Thomas was a U.S. Senator for the state of Wyoming. He passed away in 2007.

Susan Thomas wanted to keep Sen. Thomas’ legacy alive.

“He loved young people and talked to them all over the country,” Susan said.

Susan taught at-risk youth for 18 years in Natrona County, and then for 18 years in Arlington County, outside of Washington D.C., after Craig was elected senator.

“I put those two together and created the Craig and Susan Thomas Foundation,” Susan said.

The program has three components Susan said, one of which is the Mentorship Scholarship Program.

Students who have struggled in life, school, financially or whatever can apply for the scholarship by semester and get Susan as a mentor.

Susan mentors the student through texting, calling, driving to see them and even writing letters.

She follows up with the students at semester when they get their grades.

“They build a track record with me,” Susan said. “The contract they sign lays these things out. We have never had anybody lose this scholarship.”

Mentoring is her favorite part of the program, because she loves working with young people and encouraging them to strive for a better life. Her classroom has become the whole state of Wyoming. “It’s like a campaign, and that is why I love it,” Susan said. She spends most of her days on the road visiting schools and working with students.

When she is not mentoring, she is fundraising.

The maximum scholarship is $1,250 per semester and can go to community colleges, University of Wyoming , vocational educational programs for professions such as driving, mechanics, culinary arts, cosmetology and health services.

Part-time students are also eligible for the scholarship, Susan said.

When Susan started the scholarship program, 10-12 scholarships were offered. The Foundation now offers 15 scholarships per semester.

Susan lights up when she talks about the changes she has seen in the students she mentors. She knows their stories before the mentorship program and brags of their successes.

“These kids are fantastic,” Susan said. “They all are focused and moving forward and I think this is one of the best parts of our program.”

To apply for the scholarship, the students complete the application, which is available online at http://www.Thomas-Foundation.com.

Students can also see their school counselor to help determine if they qualify.

Basic scholarship criteria include:

• NOT receiving Hathaway Scholarship

• High school diploma or GED

• Eligible for the school or program for which they are applying

• Wyoming and U.S. Citizen

• Attending a Wyoming school or program.

• Preference is given to learners who are at risk.

The second component of the program is the Leadership Awards, Susan said. The deadline for this program is Feb 17, 2016. The award and a $2,500 cash prize is given to a Wyoming individual who has been nominated because of their support, encouragement and championship of youth are at risk.

The nominee should have an impact on those who are at risk in the personal, educational or employment sector; have an impact on those who are at risk in community outreach and have an impact on those who are at risk in health and wellness concerns.

Materials to be submitted with the nomination form are also on the foundation’s website.

The third component of the program is grants. Grants are given to Wyoming groups and organizations that help at-risk youth reach their full potential.

According to the foundation’s website, the grants are awarded to groups that help learners achieve post-secondary educational goals. The average amount of the grant is $2,000 and applications are accepted throughout the year. Awards are determined by the needs and suitability of Foundation objectives.

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