Before celebrating their 50th class reunion last September, Holland High School alumni Jim Stroop, Donna (Kimberley) Brooks and several of their classmates from the Class of 1966 decided to create a scholarship for their alma mater. Several months following their milestone event, their scholarship finally became a reality.
During a ceremony held at Holland Early College on April 14, Stroop and Brooks were joined by fellow classmates Janice (Kvorka) Hurley, Howard Veneklasen, Carla (Rubingh) Ver Schure, Dean DeRidder, Sally (Lamberts) Myrick and Jeff Padnos to award scholarships to two 13th year students who have completed the Early College program. Stroop spoke to the students and honored guest by saying:
"This program is from the Class of 1966 and if you do that math, that means me and all these other old people ( joking) graduated over 50 years ago from Holland High School. For a lot of you, it's pretty hard to visualize 50 years into the future. For us looking back, 50 years goes pretty fast. There's a lot of good things that have happened over that time. We grew up as a very close class. We had a lot things going on. For you, as history. For us, as life back in the 1960's. We had a war going on. President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated. We had a President that said 'Hey, you know what? Let's go the moon! Why not? We got nothing better to do.'
It was a time of great expectations but also a lot stress during that time and I think, for me anyway, that's kind of what made me want to stay in touch with my classmates. I wanted to know what they were doing, how they were doing it, where they went to school, did they go to school, all of those kind of things. So as a result, we wound up having a high school class reunion every 5 years. We had 10 reunions over time. At every reunion, we tried to collect a little bit more money then what we spent so we could have a little seed money for the next reunion.
So then after talking about it, Donna had another idea. 'Why don't we challenge or invite our classmates at our reunion to contribute to our scholarship?' We had three classmates that night hand me checks to get this thing going. We sent out notice via e-mail and our Facebook page to invite and encourage our classmates to contribute to this and by Dec. 31, 2016, we had collected over $26,300 (including an additional $200 since the beginning of this year - bringing the total to $26,565).
I think we all agree that the start we got in life came right here from Holland High. We got a great education here and it got us going on the right foot for the rest of our lives. I would hope that 50 years from now, one of you will be up here saying 'here's $75,000 to keep this program going'."
"I would like to commend Superintendent Dr. Brian Davis, the Board of Education, Early College Director Andrea Mehall and Holland Public Schools for enunciating and getting this Holland Early College going here," said Donna Brooks. "It has given many of the students a college education that may have not been in their future without this program. We're so happy that the Holland High Class of '66 has rallied behind this effort to now help the students who are graduating from Holland Early College to continue to further their higher education, on to a bachelors degree and who know's, maybe beyond. We're also very excited that we can be involved with their very first graduating class and we congratulate all of you who are part of this class."
"I was like 'we're not worthy but thank you, thank you'", said Andrea Mehall. "When Donna first called me about what this could look like and she said they we're going to collect donations, I would have been happy with a thousand dollars or five hundred but when she called to say what the number was, I was like 'What?!'. I was blown away by the amount."
Following the presentation, Stroop signed a replica check to make it official, along with posing with students. Early College student Tryna Wright, who is part of the 13th year group, was the first scholarship applicant to hand hers and Edwin Lopez's (who is also a 13th year student but was not present) applications to the 1966 committee for their review.
"Seeing the first student present her application to be potentially awarded the scholarship was pretty moving. The Class of 1966 I think is generous beyond words," added Mehall.
Five $1,000 scholarships will be awarded annually from this scholarship fund, known as "Holland High School's Class of 1966 Holland Early College Scholarship."
"It is our hope that future graduating classes, including classes from the past that are having milestone reunions, might really consider joining us in helping to make this effort sustainable. We want this to continue," added Brooks.
After this event, School Board Trustee Linda Falstad contributed additional funds to this newly-created scholarship.
"The Board of Education and I really appreciate the generosity of the Class of 1966 and supporting our first annual graduates to be able to have scholarships to go on to further their post-secondary study at a four-year university", said Superintendent Dr. Brian Davis.
Holland High's Class of 2017 is wrapping up a stellar year!
Approximately 230 graduates will participate in the Commencement Ceremony on May 30 at Hope College's DeVos Fieldhouse.
The guest speaker is Mr. Jim DeBoer, long-time HPS music teacher, who retired last year to become a professor at Hope.
Many of the grads remember Mr. DeBoer from their elementary years – so the evening promises to be memorable.
Also, the committee planning the fantastic "after-Commencement" SENIOR PARTY is still selling tickets ($60).
Grads without tickets are encouraged to stop into the Student Success Office at HHS to buy their tickets right away.