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Thursday, May 28, 2015 12:01 am

Standout students receive college scholarships

Community Foundation takes reins of longstanding awards program

Carolyn Blackwell and Betsy Weidner joined Student of the Year finalists Ryan Salzeider, Maria Palazzolo, Connor Davlin, Stephanie Chou and Meghan McClain at the SFLL awards. Bob Bunn is at right.
Photo by Courtney Westlake


The Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln awarded more than $109,000 in scholarships to 57 area students at a ceremony May 20. There were five finalists for Student of the Year awards.

Sacred Heart-Griffin student Maria Palazzolo was chosen Student of the Year and received a $10,000 scholarship. First runner-ups were Connor Davlin from Springfield High School and Ryan Salzeider from Pawnee High School. Both received $5,000 scholarships. Stephanie Chou of Glenwood High School and Meghan McClain of SHG were second runner-up winners, receiving $2,500 scholarships.

The Community Foundation assumed responsibility for administering the awards after the J.P. Morgan Chase bank closed its trust department in Springfield in October 2014. “We decided in January after talking with J.P. Morgan Chase in Chicago that we would organize this event and present the awards,” CFLL President John Stremsterfer said. “Willard Bunn, Jr. established the Student of the Year Awards at Marine Bank, and we felt it was important to preserve these awards.”

Twenty-six individuals, families or organizations funded scholarships. Frontiers International awarded six $1,000 scholarships and ten $500 scholarships. The Henry Bunn Memorial Scholarship awarded eight $5,000 scholarships.

Other awards were from Bud and Helene O’Shea Construction ($1,000), CIELO (Culturally Integrated Education for Latinos Organization – $1,000), Illinois Women in Leadership (four $1,000 awards), the Joseph and Lois Morris Memorial Scholarships (four awards totaling $7,000) and the Lori L. Kashmer Scholarship ($5,000). There were two $1,000 awards from the World War II Illinois Descendants Scholarship.

The awards committee included Bob Bunn, Carolyn Blackwell and Karen Maranski who selected five Student of the Year finalists out of 87 applicants.  There were a total of 347 applicants for all scholarships in 2015. “The Community Foundation is proud to link donors with worthy students, through scholarships to help offset the rising costs of higher education,” Harry Berman, chair of the foundation’s scholarship committee, said.

When Willard Bunn, Jr. started the Student of the Year Scholarship program, he wanted the awards to go to well-rounded students, not only the top students academically, son Bob Bunn said. “People who succeed in life have grit and are involved in many things,” Bunn said. “That’s the sort of student we were looking for.”

Student of the Year Maria Palazzolo is the international president of Key Club and traveled to Cambodia this year in that capacity. Key Club is the high school organization sponsored by Kiwanis International. Palazzolo traveled almost every other weekend in March and April this year speaking to groups and raising money for tetanus vaccinations for Cambodians, she said. Palazzolo spoke at the annual meeting of the U.S. Fund for Unicef in New York about the project.

“Key Club’s goal is to raise $110 million in five years through a partnership with UNICEF and Kiwanis,” she said. “We are educating people in Cambodia on safe birthing practices. I visited remote villages that had never seen Westerners.” Maternal tetanus is a problem there, she said, because the traditional cultural practice in remote areas is to rub spider webs on the baby’s umbilical cord after it is cut. Pregnant women who receive a tetanus shot insure that their newborns will not contract tetanus.

The awards ceremony was held at the Illinois Education Association building at 3440 Liberty Drive. “The Community Foundation intends to continue the scholarship awards program,” Stremsterfer said.


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