Since 2007 the Branch has awarded several AAUW Scholarships each year to female non-traditional students living in the greater Bennington area. Most of the recipients are older part-time students who have previously interrupted their education to raise young children or pursue other activities.
The scholarships are funded by a theater performance each year, by public and member donations, by more than 20 “Silent Angels” who anonymously pledge to donate $100 each year, and by profits from the sale of the Scribble Sisters books. The Branch Book Group initiated a fund to buy textbooks for the scholarship recipients.
As of the end of 2020, the Scholarship Committee was responsible for awarding almost $50,000 in scholarship money and 99 semesters of funding.
A little background on the scholarship committee’s work will help branch members understand all that is involved in running this our signature project and why we are so grateful to our committee for all their hard work.
To raise funds, we initially collaborated with the Bennington Chapter of the Business and Professional Women. When that group disbanded, we inherited the scholarship program as well as the food concession at the Bennington Car Show.
Jennifer has been Scholarship Committee Chair since the inception, and Judy Murphy, and Gudrun Hutchens have been committee members, while Mary Feidner coordinated the Silent Angels. The four of them met initially with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) and collaborated on writing policy guidelines for the committee and for the awarding of scholarships. After a year, CCV told us that they would prefer to deal with one person rather than a committee and Jennifer became that one contact person for CCV and the students.
To determine the amount appropriate for selected students, Jennifer meets with Lucy Robinson (CCV financial aid counselor) to find out what each student will receive for her Pell Grant, VSAC money, and other financial aid. We also request a copy of their FAFSA form and an academic transcript. Students are asked on their application how many courses they are taking and what their additional needs are to attend CCV for the next semester (including gas money if traveling for some distance, childcare during class — etc.). This information lets us know how much money they need to continue their education. We try to fill in as much of the “missing funds” as we can, but have established a maximum scholarship amount of $1000, even if the student is very needy. In most cases it is less, typically for one semester’s study. Each student is asked to write an essay about themselves and their future goals. We also request two recommendations (sent directly to Jennifer). One has to be from someone who knows about their classwork and/or education; the other can be anyone who knows the student.
During a number of years, one or two additional branch members have participated in the committee meeting that decides on the recipients and dollar amounts. A member who participated for several years fairly recently was Norma McShane. She resigned after she became treasurer.
Judy has written nearly all of the articles for the newsletter and Jennifer and Gudrun have shared the writing of official award letters to students and thank you letters to CCV advisors. All letters go out over Jennifer’s signature and the applications are sent to her. She telephones each student after our awards meeting, so that they know about the scholarship amount before they receive the official letter. Gudrun is the math person with the calculator who makes sure the numbers add up correctly at our awards meetings; she has also maintained the summary of scholarship awards. Checks are written payable to CCV for the students account. If the student drops out, CCV returns the money. Everyone contributes what they do best.