Class of 2020 students receive $13,000 in scholarships from Huntley District 158 Education Foundation

Huntley Area Lions Club awards $1,000 to Huntley High School senior Victoria Smolen

On Monday, the Huntley School District 158 Education Foundation announced the nine recipients of the 2020 Student Scholarship Awards and the James “Barney” Manning Memorial Scholarship, which together awarded $13,000 to Huntley High School seniors.

Senior students received scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,500 to put towards furthering their education, according to a news release from the Education Foundation.

“I have decided to pursue a career in the medical field because of my love of science, learning new things, and the ability to help people," one scholarship recipient, Taylor Stephenson, said in the release.

The Huntley High School students who were awarded scholarships are as follows: Rafael De La Paz ($2,500), Victoria Smolen ($2,000), Jacklyn Fiandaca ($1,500), Karly Melendy ($1,500), Taylor Stephenson ($1,500), Allison Galante ($1,000), Grace Gatto ($1,000), Olivia Wombacher ($1,000) and Taylor Calame ($500 from James "Barney" Manning Memorial Scholarship and $500 from Education Foundation).

There were 52 applicants for this year's scholarships of which the Foundation selected 18 finalists who were interviewed through Zoom calls, according to the release. Interviews were conducted by Scholarship Committee Chairperson Roger Schroepfer and Foundation members Anita Adams and Sean Cratty.

Scholarship recipients were chosen based on a few criteria: engagement in community service, extracurricular activities, leadership qualities, academic strength and goals to further their education through college or a trade school.

“These activities have allowed me to give back to other people and be there to serve others," scholarship recipient Rafael De La Paz wrote of his involvement with Boy Scouts of America and Willow Creek Community Church's Huntley youth group.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters taught me one of the most important lessons: life is not about materialistic gain, but about enjoying the little things and making the best of every moment," another recipient, Allison Galante, wrote.

Of this year's recipients, De La Paz will study actuarial science at University of Iowa, Smolen will pursue computer science, Fiandaca will major in biology at the University of Illinois, Melendy will study exercise science at Illinois State University and Stephenson will study biology at Loyola University's Chicago campus.

Galante will pursue criminology at University of South Carolina, Gatto will major in music education at Illinois State University, Wombacher will study elementary education and Spanish at University of Alabama and Calame plans to attend McHenry County College before transferring to a four-year university.

According to the news release, the Education Foundation is a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing scholarships to high school seniors and grants to teachers who want to implement innovative programs in their classrooms.

Victoria Smolen also received the Huntley Area Lions Club's 2020 Scholarship for an additional $1,000 toward continuing her education, according to a news release from the organization's publicity chairman, Ronda Goldman.

Smolen was a member of Huntley High School's National Honor Society with a GPA of 4.2 and plans to attend the University of Michigan in the Fall. She volunteers regularly in her community and is a "strong believer that there is no greater power possessed by humankind than the power of kindness," Smolen said in the release.

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