WATSONVILLE — About 115 students from Watsonville High School were honored Tuesday during the Annual Watsonville High School Scholarship Awards Assembly at the Henry J. Mello Center for Performing Arts.

More than $300,000 in scholarships was given out during the event.

Among those receiving awards were 11 students who were awarded the Alicia Schoellhamer Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was conceived 27 years ago by the Schoelhamer Family in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County to honor long-time volunteer Alicia Schoellhamer.

In the 11 years Schoellhamer volunteered with the Volunteer Center, she provided services with the Transportation Program, the Literacy Program, helped to start the Adopt a Family Project, and served on the board of directors as well.

When she passed away from cancer in 1990, her family and those who worked with her chose to develop a fund to honor her legacy. Maintaining the scholarship and selecting the winners has been a collective family effort and family members see it as an opportunity to carry on the work of Schoellhamer. 

“As far back as I can remember my mother worked to make the world around her a better place,” said Alicia Schoellhamer’s son Paul Schoellhamer, who has remained actively involved in the scholarship process since its inception. “She believed in looking at the community she was part of, seeing who needed help and what needed to be done, and then putting in the work needed to make it happen. Her approach was always low-key, thoughtful, caring and effective.” 

“While the world is filled with wonderful volunteers, Alicia had the rare ability to make others feel like a better version of themselves,” said Alicia Schoellhamer’s daughter-in-law Kathleen Rose. “After she was diagnosed with cancer and went on chemotherapy, she was a lot weaker and we worried about her. She assured me that her work with the community in Watsonville didn’t tire her out but made her feel more alive. I have no doubt that it made those around her feel more alive as well.

“Alicia believed in philanthropy and saw it as an investment in the future of those who don’t have the benefit of a level playing field. I think our scholarship is given in that spirit. Our family and those at the Volunteer Center who knew Alicia, wanted to create a scholarship that looked beyond academics and awarded students who utilize the spirit of generosity in spite of their own circumstance.”

Scholarship recipients are annually selected for their ability to reach out to others in need within the local community and for their willingness to improve themselves through service.

This year as the Volunteer Center marks its 50th anniversary of service, the Schoellhamer family chose to increase the scholarship amount in her honor.

“What began in 1990 as an idea to award one student $300 has grown each year and now in 2017 this fund will provide 11 $1,000 scholarships,” Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney said. “It is incredible how the simple desire to honor the legacy of Alicia has evolved into 27 years of grassroots philanthropy. The Schoellhamer family demonstrates you don’t have to be Bill Gates to be a philanthropist. At a time when so much of the public narrative is about dissatisfaction, complaint and what is broken — we see hundreds of examples of people like the Schoellhamers quietly making things better. We are so grateful for the long-term generosity that Alicia inspired.”

For information about the scholarship and the work of the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, visit www.scvolunteercenter.org.

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