Foundation selects scholarship winners

Karen Ann Olson Forys would be very pleased to learn of the selection of recipients of the first memorial scholarships to be issued in her name this year — the silver anniversary of the Northshore Scholarship Foundation.

Through the generosity and support of friends and family, the foundation’s 50th endowment was established a year ago to recognize candidates interested in teaching, the performing arts and improving their credentials as professional educators.

Dr. Forys led the Northshore School District as superintendent for 13 years prior to her death in September of 2007 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her passions clearly were for her profession and for the performing arts.

Named to receive the $2,000 Forys scholarship for staff development is special-education teacher Melissa Gagner at Woodmoor Elementary. She spends her day with nine severely disabled, special-needs students, kindergarten through third grade.

In her application, Melissa stated simply, “I love what I do.” Her colleagues supporting her candidacy described Melissa as compassionate, dedicated, “deeply caring” with a desire “to help every child learn” no matter what their individual circumstances.

She is working for her master’s degree in special education through Grand Canyon University. The selection committee had the daunting task of selecting one among a dozen Northshore teachers also working toward their master’s.

Ashleigh Emmons of Bothell High was selected for the second $2,000 Forys scholarship — established for a Northshore graduating senior whose career path would be teaching or the performing arts. Ashleigh plans to attend William Woods University in Missouri, where she will work toward a degree in American Sign Language Interpreting, with the intent to teach in that field.

Ashleigh wrote, “I have heard stories about deaf children not understanding subjects in school because they had poor interpreters. I have always viewed further education in all forms as vitally important to my career objectives.

“By continuing my education in this field and continuing to refine my skills later in life, I hope to help raise the bar for educational interpreters and help deaf students not only learn in school, but enjoy it, as well.”

She would also like to minor in musical theater. “I’ve been performing and involved in theater since I was 3 years old.” She adds, “I hope to use acting to bring stories to communities that are creative and powerful.”

Melissa and Ashleigh are among this year’s 75 scholarship recipients who were honored at the 25th annual Recognition Breakfast held this month and sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Woodinville and Northshore and the Kiwanis Club of Northshore. The recipients were awarded a total of $156,075 in grants bringing the total of scholarships since 1984 to 1,286 at a total value exceeding $1.5 million.

In conversations with Dr. Forys over the years, invariably the subject would get around to her concern for the quality, growth opportunities and professional development of the educators in her Northshore district. She would discuss ways to keep and encourage the best staff in the district.

If she were here to read Ashleigh and Melissa’s scholarship applications, I can envision her nodding in vigorous and proud approval.

Wrote Melissa, “My first day in a severe special-education classroom, I came home and cried. It was too much!

“I soon came to love this setting. I love the uniqueness of each student, and the challenges that they each bring. These kids are something special, for every disability or deficit they have, they make up for it in a multitude of ways — through their personality, sense of humor or imagination and their love of life. I believe that my daily interactions with my students help to provide my foundation in teaching.”

Lucky for her students, Melissa will continue in their classroom while working on her studies.

A complete listing of the 2009 silver anniversary recipients is found on the foundation’s Web site at Of special interest are the new “Make a Difference” scholarships offered for this first year by the Woodinville Rotary Club, where three Woodinville High graduating seniors will each receive $6,000 tuition grants from the club. They are the largest individual scholarships ever offered through the foundation, a stimulus to graduates who might otherwise delay or altogether abandon plans for college for financial reasons. The club hopes to make these first three renewable at a fund-raising event in October at the true extent of a full-year’s tuition for 2010-11.

John B. Hughes was owner-publisher of the Northshore Citizen from 1961 to 1988.

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