Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
For years now, the Woodward Elks Ladies have made it their mission to leave the community better than they found it.
So its no surprise that during a time when everyone else is making cuts, the Woodward Elks Ladies are rolling out a bigger and more comprehensive scholarship program, said program organizer Lola Ward.
According to Ward, the Woodward Ladies Elks Scholarship Program, a $500 semester by semester endowment, is well over 40 years-old.
In the past, the program targeted displaced homemakers who needed to extend their educations to better provide for their families, she said.
Now, not only will the program cover displaced homemakers, but a second tier program will also be extended to a graduating senior each year, Ward said.
A perfect example of how the program impacts local recipients, couldn't be better represented than by 25-year-old Heather Gunn of Seiling.
Gunn won her scholarship through the Elks Ladies last fall.
She applied as a part of the displaced homemaker program, when she realized she was in an unhealthy marriage and knew she needed to get out and find a way to care for herself and her daughter Hailee, she said.
Gunn was accepted into the Woodward Elks Ladies Scholarship Program in August. She received her first payment after completing her first semester in December.
The money has helped the single mother be able to afford to attend school at High Plains Technology Center in Woodward. She hopes to become a medical assistant.
"I live in Seiling and the money has helped me pay for gas to get here to school," she said.
Later, Gunn plans to attend either Northwestern Oklahoma State University or Northern Oklahoma College to work toward becoming a nurse midwife, she said.
But perhaps the most telling difference that a simple $500 scholarship can make is not in what people say about it, but what they do with it.
Recently, Gunn and her fellow medical occupation students from High Plains Technology Center traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to the Health Occupation Students of America Nationals.
There, Gunn competed in a prepared speech competition and won 2nd in a field of competitors from all 50 states, she said.
Her prepared speech lead listeners on her path to courage through the inspiration of Hailee, her daughter, she said.
"I explained how my daughter had been put in the hospital and it was she who gave me the courage to go back to school and make a better life for us by furthering my education."
Ultimately, the determined young woman plans to become a nurse midwife and return to practice in the northwestern Oklahoma region, she said.
'This is my home. I will be coming back here," she said.
Eligibility for the second tier program application process for graduating seniors is open now to those who are projected to graduate in 2014, Ward said.
The deadline for application is September 27," Ward said.
According to Ward, once a senior has been accepted into the scholarship program, he/she will be followed by the Woodward Ladies Elks through their grades and proof of enrollment on a semester by semester basis.
For displaced homemakers, the process is the same.
Each year now, a new displaced homemaker and a new high school graduate will be considered to begin the scholarship program.
"If they keep us informed of their grades and then, show proof that they are enrolled for the next semester, then they get the $500 scholarship money," Ward said.