Washoe County School District today announced the first recipients of the Ben Hayes Memorial Scholarship for Empowering Students. Graduating Galena High School seniors Olivia Etter and Keegan Compston were each awarded $7,500 annually for four years to cover tuition, housing, food and other educational expenses.
Both Etter and Compston are attending University of Nevada, Reno, in the fall.
The scholarship was created in honor of Ben Hayes, WCSD’s chief accountability officer, who died in March 2021. Hayes served for two decades with the district in a variety of roles, and was active in the community, including serving on the board of directors for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.
“He left a legacy of kindness, honesty, and perseverance as he worked to make a positive difference in the world and in the lives of the children of Washoe County,” a district spokesperson said in a statement announcing the awards.
Reflecting the legacy of Hayes, students who apply for the scholarship must submit a personal statement or essay demonstrating their service to others and acts of kindness. Applicants are also reviewed based on financial need and student voice in the name of equity and perseverance.
Etter said challenges she and her family have faced during the pandemic have led her to become more compassionate. She hopes to become a social worker to support children in the foster care system once she completes her education.
Compston said he dreams of becoming a nurse so he can help others. A military dependent, he said, “I understand the challenges of needing help and the importance of giving back to other through selfless service. I want the opportunity to be able to change people’s lives for the better, to be surrounded by like-minded people who, like me, want to help others.”
WCSD area superintendent Jeana Curtis first proposed the creation of the Ben Hayes scholarship, which was initially funded through an anonymous $30,000 donation made in April.
“I am incredibly proud of these two students, and thankful that we are able to provide them with this financial support as they continue their education at UNR,” Curtis said. “They have showed remarkable resilience and perseverance during this difficult year, and I admire their strength and courage. They also have contributed to their community by volunteering their time and talents to various causes, and they are upholding the values that Ben held so dear in his own life. I congratulate these students and their families and thank the Hayes family for their support for our students.”
The Ben Hayes Memorial Scholarship for Empowering Students is supported through private community donations. Those who would like to donate should email Jeana Curtis at [email protected].
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