April 27th I got the honor of awarding the fourth annual Jo Lyn Bartz Memorial Scholarship to a senior at my alma mater and where I taught the first seven years of my career, Salina Central High. This year was a special treat because without either me or my father being on the selection committee, Lindsey Wood, a young woman I have known for years and respect because of her work ethic, desire to help others, and integrity was chosen.
The Jo Lyn Bartz Memorial Scholarship was created by fundraising and donations in the Salina community. People who prayed with me as my mother was in the hospital helped me raise the funds to create a scholarship endowment. It was a beautiful gift from my friend and neighbors to help me reach the necessary funds to start the scholarship because now it allows me to honor my mother’s name and spread the story of her strength through a scholarship that helps propel young lives to thrive for others.
When my mother passed away, I need to heal. I needed to make sense of what my life meant now that I had lost my brother and mother to a genetic disease I did not inherit. I wrote From My Mother to process the emotions, to sort through the complex philosophical issues, and to give myself a time where I let the pain be felt and acknowledged. But writing itself wasn’t enough. Writing is personal, and unless it is shared, writing for yourself in your basement doesn’t change relationships. Creating a scholarship in my mother’s honor with my community’s support did change relationships. It let something good and beautiful come from the loss, and it perpetually honors my mother’s life. It let me share my pain and joy with my community and share my family’s story each year with the scholarship.
If you have lost a loved one and have the capacity to create a memorial scholarship, I highly suggest it. I didn’t have $5000 to start the endowment myself, but I sent a fundraising letter, held a donation garage sale which friends and family could bring items to, and asked for help on social media. People showed me that the legacy of my mother was worth their support, and since them I’ve been able to heal and grow a little more each Awards Night at Salina Central High.
It’s honestly one of my favorite nights of the year. I’ve been proud of all four recipients, having picked none of them but known them all personally and taught them all in some capacity.
Last year’s recipient, Zach Hilbig, was a Governor’s Scholar tonight and one of the top three Most Representative Senior Males! Lindsay Wood, this year’s recipient, was also awarded the Most Representative Senior Female award, one special to my heart and in a chapter of From My Mother… Congratulations to Zach and Lindsay on a great senior year and taking the Jo Lyn Bartz Memorial Scholarship into college!
I should have gotten a picture with Zach last night. I’ll get one with him at graduation… 🙂