This year’s high school juniors will be first to compete for 6 new college scholarships

By Ralph Echtinaw

A project to create six annual Gratiot County Veterans Memorial Scholarships is nearing completion, and the first scholarships are expected to be issued to members of the Class of 2023.

North Star Golf Course owner and Ithaca resident Steve Smith is one of the prime movers in this effort, as is former Ithaca Schools Athletic Director Paul Hornak.

The latter attended the St. Louis school board meeting Monday to pitch the scholarship idea.

Plans are in the works to create a 501(c)(3), thus making the group an official non-profit organization. Hornak said $200,000 in pledges have been received thus far. Bricks will be sold for Veterans Memorial Field at Ithaca High School for $5,000 each to raise the scholarship money. Each brick will have the donor’s name on it. A separate plaque will list people who donate less than $5,000.

One scholarship for each of Gratiot County’s six school districts (St. Louis, Alma, Ithaca, Breckenridge, Ashley and Fulton) will be issued annually beginning with the Class of 2023. 

Recipients will be chosen by committees in each school district. “We have most of them already,” Hornak said, but he wouldn’t name names. “We had names two years ago when we thought we were going to start the projects, but Covid stopped us,” Hornak said. “I have not reconnected with the people yet.” He plans to have at least five people per school district on the committees.

No dollar amount has been set for the scholarships, as that depends on how much money comes in.

“We’re looking at five, six, seven thousand dollars,” Hornak told the school board Monday.

The scholarship project is tied into another project to put synthetic turf in the Ithaca High School stadium this summer. The stadium will then be made available for schools to use if their own fields are unplayable.

However, money raised through the sale of stadium bricks will be reserved solely for the scholarship fund, Hornak said.

If you’d like to donate to the scholarship fund or get more information, contact Hornak by email: p1hornak@gmail.com

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