On April 17, for the 25th consecutive spring, over 140 area high school seniors will cross the stage of the Spokane Convention Center to the applause of a sold out audience of nearly 900, and this year for the first time, the featured speakers will be prior scholars themselves.
Since 1993 the Spokane Scholars Foundation, an all-volunteer organization, has recognized excellence in academic performance by Spokane County high school seniors. “It is a one of a kind organization”, says co-founder and current President of the Board, Eric Johnson, “that was formed to send a signal to our students that pure scholarly achievement, standing by itself, is an admirable accomplishment.”
Over the past 25 years, the Spokane Scholars Foundation has grown from recognizing 93 seniors from 21 high schools to recognizing nearly 150 from 26 high schools.
Originally, a scholar could be named in more than one academic category but now only in the strongest area. Scholars, who are selected by their respective schools, complete an application to compete for cash awards.
Originally, only one cash award of $3,000 was given in each category but now 24 awards totaling $60,000 are given to the top four scholars in each of the six academic categories. Since its inception, the Scholars Foundation has honored 3200 high school seniors.
Nearly 1.5 million dollars in awards and matching grants (14 colleges match the awards for the first year) have been used by students while pursuing further education. Funding for the banquet and the awards comes from individuals, professionals, businesses, and foundations.
“What separates the Spokane Scholars Foundation from others is our 100 percent commitment to keep scholarly achievement as our only focus. We think this concept works, as we hear now regularly of middle school students wanting to know what it takes to be a scholar.
The Silver Anniversary Banquet will be highlighted by featured speakers Parker Barrile -- a 1999 graduate of Gonzaga Preparatory School and a Spokane Scholar in Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies, and Rachel Wagley, the 2007 Spokane Scholar in Social Studies from Shadle Park High School.
They join a list of previous notable speakers that includes: Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan; Dr. Leon Lederman, noble laureate in physics; and Daniel Goldin, director of NASA. Over the years, all speakers have appeared gratis.
Barrile holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Stanford University and an MBA from Stanford Business School. He has held management positions with Bain and Co., Google, LinkedIn, Prosper, and now is a partner at Norwest Venture Partners, a California-based venture capital firm.
Wagley is the foreign policy advisor to Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner and staffs the congresswoman’s work on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Wagley is a cum laude graduate of Harvard University, a Fulbright Scholar, and has had extensive experience as a volunteer teacher of refuges in Southeast Asia.
Says Johnson, “This community is blessed with talented and dedicated teachers, with parents who care about the education of their children, and with young people who understand the value of excelling at learning. All of us involved with the Spokane Scholars Foundation simply want to place these students on the pedestals they deserve. We have done this for 25 years, and we plan to do it for another 25 years.”
For more information on the Spokane Scholars Foundation, visit spokanescholars.com.