Amanda Hawk - a former scholarship recipient
2003 Tantasqua grad and Hitchcock Free Academy scholarship recipient Amanda Hawk (pictured to the right) said, “I’ve always been a determined and hardworking student, so to receive the Hitchcock scholarship meant all my hard work was paying off. I was surprised and honored and knew that it would be put to good use.” And indeed it was: Amanda has been working with Special Education students at Tantasqua for 8 years and is now finishing her Master’s Degree in Special Education. The article below highlights the effects that HFA's scholarship program can have on the community.
With “Senioritis” becoming very catchy these days among the Tantasqua 2015 graduates (as it is every year for graduates everywhere), think for a moment of where they are right now, less than a couple months away from graduation. Leaving years of hard work in K-12. Deciding the next step: College? Which one? What major? Any major? Work? Gap year? Navigating the entire (and costly) college application process (and it’s not so simple these days, either!). Waiting to hear from colleges, universities, and financial aid offices. Making more decisions that can affect their future for many years to come. This major life transition time is filled with excitement -- and perhaps a bit of anxiety mixed in.
This time of year is also “Scholarship Award Season” at Hitchcock Free Academy (HFA), exciting and a little nerve-wracking as well perhaps for HFA’s Scholarship Committee; there are so many gifted, promising, and deserving students and, as always, limited funds to award for scholarships. There are applications to review, interviews with each candidate, difficult decisions to be made, letters, awards, administrative follow-up. Since 1956, when HFA transitioned from being the local high school to a vibrant community center, the Academy has awarded 1,156 scholarships; that’s almost 60 years of awards to local graduates.
Over the years, “… the scholarship program has remained a cornerstone of Hitchcock Academy in keeping with the goal of founder Samuel Hitchcock to help local students to get a good education,” says a 2015 Trustee report on HFA’s scholarship history.
Imagining the impact that a scholarship can have not only upon the recipient’s life, but also that person’s community and beyond gives some insight into how crucial HFA’s scholarship program is.
For example, Brimfield resident Amanda Hawk received a scholarship in 2003 when she graduated from Tantasqua. No stranger to HFA, Amanda had enjoyed Summer Fun programs and participated in Girl Scout meetings at the Academy.
Amanda says she was honored and surprised to receive the award, but “What meant most to me – even more than the generous scholarship – was the community support that the scholarship represented.” She adds, “Being awarded a scholarship is a real vote of confidence for a student and is a solid incentive to succeed. It’s a real boost!”
Upon graduating from Tantasqua, Amanda put that “boost” to good use, attending Westfield State College and then becoming an educational assistant at Tantasqua, which led to her becoming a teacher. She then designed a work program for children with special needs, called the “Beyond Pathways Work Program” (still being implemented today) which provides vocational opportunities, functional academics, life skills, social skills and independent functioning skills to prepare students for their transition to adulthood. The program helps students to become more independent and self-sufficient and will help to make their transition a success.
Because of Amanda’s drive, vision, and positive outlook, and the community support she received, she has now been serving Tantasqua students with special needs for eight years. This May she is also receiving her Master’s Degree in Education from Worcester State College.
When asked for some advice for scholarship applicants, she says, “Work hard and have fun! On your scholarship applications, list everything you’ve done for community service – what you’ve done to give back to the community – so that the scholarship committee can see that you are a good community investment!”
Amanda has clearly proven herself to be an excellent “community investment.” Referring to her years of volunteer activities she notes, “Experiences in youth can extend through to the future in ways you might not expect.” She has been coaching softball at Tantasqua for 10 years and basketball for 8.
Indeed, one drop of water can create ripples throughout the entire pond. One scholarship – one vote of confidence in a student’s future. Imagine the ripple effect: One solid investment can affect the future of the recipient and all others who benefit from the work that that person does. And from there, all the lives that each one of those lives touch. The possibilities are endless, the future limitless.