A home run | TSLN.com

A home run

There are many scholarships available to America's youth as they graduate from high school and press ahead with future endeavors. Whether it involves college and a four year degree or vocational education to learn a trade, post-secondary educational decisions can be difficult and are often fraught with a great deal of uncertainty including finances.

Vale, Oregon is small rural community of 1,600 people situated in the high desert of eastern Oregon. Like many other rural communities, the population has declined and the economy poses a challenge. However, the story that doesn't always get told is how quickly people in these small rural towns like Vale will "step up to the plate" and donate to educational scholarship funds.

FFA has had a long-standing presence in rural America. Many of the schools with an FFA chapter also have a scholarship fund to help graduating members of the chapter with their post high school education. The Vale High School FFA Chapter is one of those chapters.

The Vale FFA Scholarship Fund was formed in 1992 by Circuit Judge Frank Yraguen, Marvin Rempel, a dairymen, and Ron Martin a local farmer and cattle feeder. In 2001, the Vale FFA Scholarship was reorganized into the Vale FFA Scholarship Foundation. From 1992 through 2014, the endowment awarded $114,095 to 141 recipients to be used for post high school education. In addition, the Foundation recently awarded chapter members $8,000 to help fund travel expenses to the National FFA Convention. The goal of the Foundation is to fund scholarships strictly through the earnings on principal.

It is important to note that the funds given to Vale FFA chapter members would not have been possible without the strong support of people in the community and throughout Malheur County. This scholarship endowment has been funded totally through an auction designated to be on the first Saturday following the opening day of pheasant hunting season in Malheur County, or usually the second Saturday in October.

Beginning in September, the Vale FFA Scholarship Foundation Board, the Vale High School FFA Advisor and chapter members work together to collect donations from individuals and businesses. In the days leading to this big community event, a Scholarship Board member takes on the task of organizing and readying for sale the many auction items. On auction day, the school district bus barn begins to bustle with community members who arrive to bid and donate to our scholarship fund and show their support to the local FFA chapter and its members. At 10:00 sharp, a local auction firm who each year generously donates their time, announces the auction will begin. For the next four to five hours, the bidding continues and by the time the last item goes to the highest bidder, this fund raising auction will typically raise between $15,000 and $20,000. Once again, the community contributes and makes the auction a raving success. Beyond the auction in October to raise money, in January, the Board begins the scholarship application and interview process. The effort culminates every May at the Vale FFA Chapter annual awards banquet when scholarships are awarded.

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In May 2016, the Vale FFA Scholarship will celebrate 24 years of awarding scholarships to deserving students who actively participated in the Vale High School FFA Chapter and applied for a scholarship. We are proud of this endeavor of awarding scholarships, some as big as $2,000. But, we are also proud of the many Malheur County donors and bidders who "step up to the plate" every year and make our mission of assisting Vale High School Vocational Agriculture graduates in furthering their post high school education. In our piece of rural America, this is a success story!

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