MILLERSBURG — The Holmes County Education Foundation has enjoyed 31 years of helping more than 2,500 Holmes County residents further their education by awarding more than $9 million in scholarships and grants since 1989. Under the guidance of Executive Director Darla Stitzlein, the Holmes County Education Foundation currently administers 65 named endowed scholarships.
“I’ve had the privilege of serving as director of the foundation for the past 20 years,” Stitzlein said. “One family’s vision to see Holmes County students further their education became a reality on Aug. 24, 1989, when Ruth Stock made a $100 gift to establish the Holmes County Education Foundation. The initial board of trustees was established, which included John Waltman, Judge Robert Hines, James McGuire and Richard Maxwell. One year later, a $1 million donation from Mrs. Stock made it possible to use the trust income to provide higher-education scholarships for our local students.”
The first awards were given to 87 students, who received $44,000 in scholarships. Stitzlein reported that 30 years after the first scholarship awards, 207 students received more than $477,000 in scholarships for the 2019-2020 academic year.
“Some of those students that received the very first scholarships are now the parents of the second generation of scholarship recipients,” Stitzlein said. “They are encouraging their children to go on and pursue a higher education. We need this cycle to continue to make Holmes County a strong and viable community to live and work and play in. It’s important that some students continue on the traditional college path. It is also important that some students pursue the community college or technical school path and obtain the much-needed skilled trades that are in such high demand. Our scholarship program allows funding opportunities for both of these paths.
“Several families, individuals and estates have since joined Ruth Stock by entrusting us with their funds and establishing endowment scholarships,” Stitzlein continued. “Former scholarship recipients have also become donors of the Foundation, served on the advisory committee, volunteered for the foundation, been employed by the foundation, and one currently serves as Foundation Trustee.”
The present Board of Trustees includes Linda Angelo, Matt Campbell, David Coil, Craig Hershberger, Judge Robert D. Rinfret and John Waltman. Ashley Doty is the administrative assistant. The assets of the Foundation trust shall be used (in the discretion of the trustees) to provide scholarships or other financial assistance for the pursuit of education or vocational training beyond the eighth grade. This includes loans or payments to Amish or Mennonite churches to help advance the vocations of their members. Preference shall be given to applicants who have demonstrated financial need, but the trustees may also consider academic promise and other non-economic criteria in making their decisions. Scholarships are awarded to students that are enrolled in higher-education institutions that are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.
Scholarships from the Holmes County Education Foundation have helped make life a little easier for many of the recipients over the years. Brooke Hershberger, a former scholarship recipient and 2011 Bluffton University graduate with a bachelor’s degree, works as an Eligibility Referral Specialist for the Holmes County Department of Job & Family Services. The Foundation played a major part in lowering her college expenses.
“The Holmes County Education Foundation was one of the contributing donors that helped keep my college expenses lower and for that I am so grateful,” Hershberger said. “As of May 2015, I have paid off all of my college loans, just a little under four years.”
Jane (Taft) Houin is a former West Holmes High School graduate who was awarded a scholarship through the Foundation to help decrease her college expenses.
“The Holmes County Education Foundation really helped to alleviate some of the financial burden of attending college, allowing me to focus on my education,” Houin said. She graduated from Purdue University in 1997 where she pursued ag communication. She now works as the district program administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District office.
“My degree is in ag communication, which over the course of my career has evolved into a passion for educating students about the science of agriculture,” she added. “That is a large part of what drew me to my career. I love to share the story of agriculture.”
Students interested in applying for scholarships may visit the Foundation’s website at www.hcef.net. The scholarship application period began on Jan 6 and the deadline to apply is April 3. To learn more about establishing a scholarship with the Holmes County Education Foundation, stop in at the Foundation office located in Millersburg at the Cary House, 114 N. Clay St. or contact Stitzlein at 330-674-7303.
Name: Holmes County Education Foundation
About: Holmes County Education Foundation strengthens the community by helping Holmes County residents pursue further education opportunities. It strives to be the community leader in providing further education opportunities for residents by increasing accessibility and offering need-based financial aid.
How to help: Share your story with the organization if you have been a scholarship recipient or donate to the cause of helping students in their pursuit of a higher education.
Phone: Darla Stitzlein, executive director, 330-674-7303
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