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Yellow Springs High School

Yellow Springs Schools 50th reunion scholarship expands

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It happens almost every year like clockwork: Former students from Yellow Springs schools return for a day or a weekend of fellowship with their former classmates to reminisce about their days in the schools.

As a way to commemorate their 50th class reunion in 2016, members of the class of 1966, led by Mike Hughes, decided to award a $1,000 scholarship to a member of the class of 2017.

Since then, members of classes celebrating their 50th reunions have awarded scholarships ranging $1,000 to $10,000 to graduating seniors.

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The News recently spoke with Hughes and Steve Grinnell, a member of the class of ’69, about the groups’ fundraising efforts which have resulted in a second scholarship for students seeking vocational training after high school.

According to Hughes, the idea for a scholarship stemmed from his love for Yellow Springs. As a third generation villager, Hughes said he has always cherished the educational foundation he received from the schools.

“I had a really great experience in the school system,” Hughes said. “I always wanted to find a way to give back to the schools for what they provided me.”

In his quest to give back, Hughes decided to pitch an idea to give forward — at his 50th class reunion, he asked his classmates to consider donating to a scholarship for a student from the class of 2017.

“I told my classmates I’d been thinking about a scholarship and that it would be more effective if we did one together,” Hughes said.

After receiving a positive response from his classmates, Hughes started working on a partnership with the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, which agreed to be the managing nonprofit for the scholarship.

“Once the Community Foundation became our platform, I informed my classmates and we raised $10,000 through our single class,” Hughes said.

After awarding its inaugural scholarship in 2017, Hughes reached out to representatives from other classes in order to find collaborators in fundraising. Grinnell got involved as a class leader and is now the president of the board working with the Community Foundation.

“We now have 200-plus oldsters helping future grads,” Grinnell said. “It started as a class of ’66 initiative, but it has evolved rapidly and positively. It is now truly an alumni initiative.”

Included in the 200-plus are members of classes reaching as far back as the class of 1944. Each class has a class leader — a point person who works on contacting their classmates and gaining support for the scholarship.

“It’s been a wonderful way to truly get back in contact with classmates after we went our separate ways,” Grinnell said. “My class even decided to get back together to celebrate our 70th birthdays, which was an incredible experience.”

While the past scholarships have focused on students seeking a traditional college education, Hughes said that several donors suggested expanding the scholarship offerings to students going to vocational or technical schools.

“We always had it in the back of our minds — offering a scholarship to vo-tech students — but this year we were able to create a second scholarship,” Hughes said.

“The world is changing and our nation needs those who are in the vocational trades,” Grinnell said.

The second scholarship is made possible by several sizable donations from alumni, Hughes and Grinnell said.

“We have about $250,000 in the scholarship fund thanks to generous donors such as Mike Malone, who made a donation in honor of his father and family,” Hughes said.

Considering the future of the scholarship, Grinnell and Hughes said that the committee managing the fund is looking at pathways to permanent funding. Grinnell said the group currently holds two fundraisers in April and November and they are working with the Community Foundation to set up a mechanism for planned giving, where alumni can give through trusts and wills.

Hughes said that he is proud of the impact the group has made in a short amount of time, but the alumni have lofty goals for the future.

“[To my knowledge] it’s the largest local scholarship and with these major donors we may be able to give a $25,000 scholarship in the future,” Hughes said. “I think it’s going to continue to grow, but we want to do that responsibly.”

In order to grow, Hughes said he hopes to recruit some younger alumni.

“We are an aging board and an aging donor base,” Hughes reflected, saying that he hoped to talk to some younger alumni at the upcoming all-class reunion.

Grinnell echoed that sentiment, saying that he hoped to get some energy from younger people, but to also engage members of the Bryan High School Association — students who graduated from Bryan High School, which closed when the current Yellow Springs High School was built.

“We have such an affinity for our hometown,” Grinnell said. “We want to make sure this partnership between the alumni, the school system and the philanthropic arm of the village continues.”

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