Gift creates endowment for scholarships
An anonymous donor has donated $1 million to the Methow Valley School District’s scholarship foundation, to create an endowment to support graduates interested in skilled trades that do not typically require a four-year degree.
Superintendent Tom Venable announced the seven-figure gift during the class of 2019 graduation ceremony on Friday (June 7) at Liberty Bell High School.
The donation comes at a time when Methow Valley School District is shifting away from what had been a stronger emphasis on academic courses and getting students into four-year colleges, Venable said in an interview.
“How we define and measure success should not be solely limited to attendance at a four-year university,” he said.
“There’s a lot of research that says nearly 60 percent of tomorrow’s work force will not require a four-year university degree, but rather … participation in trades programs, certification programs and two-year college programs,” Venable added.
Trades that might qualify for the new scholarship, based on an email Venable sent to school staff announcing the endowment, include welding, plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, masonry, health care, the culinary arts and green jobs — a broad field that includes sustainable building, solar and wind power, and water conservation.
A graduating senior this year will receive a scholarship from the new fund to enter a welding program, Venable said.
The Methow Valley Education Foundation board will meet this summer to decide how many scholarships to offer each year from the new endowment, the size of each scholarship, and which post-secondary programs will qualify.
Money for the new scholarship will come from interest earned on the $1 million gift; the donation itself will not be spent. Venable said the district expects to earn 3% or 4% interest annually on the endowment, or $30,000 to $40,000 on $1 million.
Most of the foundation’s scholarship money will continue to go to students pursuing a two- or four-year college or university degree in an academic field. Those scholarships are not funded by the new endowment, foundation President Terry Karro said.
“We want people to realize, we still need you,” Karro said, addressing anyone who donates to the foundation’s longstanding scholarship fund.
Recently, the nonprofit has provided $3,000 scholarships annually to 12 to 15 Liberty Bell seniors through a competitive application process. Those scholarships are renewable each year. Students who continue to pursue their studies at a four-year institution receive $12,000 total from the foundation.
Expanding in trades
The school district has been expanding its trade programs over the past several years, with the help of community support. The Winthrop Kiwanis raised about $10,000 in March at its annual Bite of the Methow fundraiser to purchase construction tools for Liberty Bell’s Advance Construction Trades class. The Methow Valley Public School Funding Alliance, a nonprofit that supports school programs, added $8,500 toward purchase of the tools, which will supply the school’s new contractor’s trailer. Students will use the trailer and the tools to get real-world experience at construction sites in the area.
The unnamed donor hopes the gift pays dividends locally, according to Venable. The new endowment will give local youth more opportunities to pursue careers at home. Electricians, plumbers and carpenters are in short supply in the valley, and many people in those professions are near retirement age, the superintendent said.
“I think the donor recognizes that it’s imperative for a place like the Methow Valley, if we’re to continue to grow and evolve, to have individuals able to fill the positions that are in high demand, whether they’re electricians or plumbers,” Venable said.
The endowment was at least the second anonymous $1 million donation given to a Methow Valley nonprofit in the past decade. An undisclosed donor gave $1 million to the Twisp Public Development Authority to purchase the land that became the TwispWorks campus, with the understanding that TwispWorks would not need to repay the “loan” if the business and arts incubator on campus became self-sustaining. Officials at TwispWorks will ceremonially receive the deed to the property at the organization’s 10-year anniversary celebration on June 29.