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Bryan and College Station graduating seniors received more than $340,000 in scholarship money during two recent events.

At the Bryan school district’s Scholarship Celebration on May 7 at Rudder High School, 150 students received 252 scholarships, totaling more than $240,000. Then, on Thursday, the College Station ISD Education Foundation handed out 77 scholarships worth $100,500.

In both cases, this year’s total was more than last year’s. For College Station, it was $41,500 more.

Katelynn Miller, who received the Lt. Col. Vernon Files Scholarship during the College Station event, said the scholarship pushes her to continue her education and gives her the opportunity to do just that.

“It means the world that [scholarship sponsor David] Gardner is so willing to do that, especially the one that I got,” the College Station High School senior said. “It was for my career prep class, which has given me the opportunity to really go out into the work world and really encourage myself to make a difference in the community and my job. It’s really an honor because that’s what his teacher did, and that’s what my teacher did for me.”

Looking ahead, Miller plans to attend Blinn College to major in psychology with a goal of earning her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and opening her own practice. She said she hopes to give back the same way the scholarship donors have.

Bryan High School senior Tyler Young, who received three scholarships during the Bryan event, said it is rewarding to have something to show for the work he did in high school.

It does add a little pressure, though, he noted.

“If somebody’s giving me money to go to school, I kind of have to perform,” he said.

One of Young’s awards was the Lester Ben Banks Sr. and Family Memorial Scholarship, presented by the BHS campus monitor supervisor Lester Banks Jr. That scholarship, funded by Banks, comes with a note from Banks about why he chose each recipient.

After high school, Young plans to study GIS mapping at Texas A&M and go on to become a land surveyor.

During College Station’s event, Superintendent Clark Ealy instructed the students to look at the name at the bottom of the award. The name — which is often that of a former or current educator, teacher or board member — is on a scholarship because they left a lasting legacy in someone’s life, he said.

“If you take anything from this evening, students, I want you to take this: When you grow up and go to college, graduate and become a success, you’ll go to a community,” he said. “Maybe some of you will come back here, but many of you will go across America or across the world. Wherever you go, make an impact where you go. Plant yourself in that community; give back in the same way these donors that you see sitting before you have given back to their community. That’s the legacy that they would want you to have, and that’s the legacy I challenge you to have as you go forward from this evening and you go forward from College Station ISD.”

That “pay it forward” nature is something Bryan High School lead counselor and coordinator of Bryan’s ceremony Justin Estes said he wants the Bryan recipients to take away from the evening.

“That this will be a significant moment for them, and they’ll look back on this at some point and decide that they want to do the same thing,” he said. “I remember when I was a kid and I was getting scholarships, and I remember how much that meant to me and my family, so to get to be a part of this process and see it from the other side is a cool thing to watch take place.”

CSISD Education Foundation Executive Director Teresa Benden called it humbling to lead an organization that offers opportunities for people in the community to donate to the students.

“We’re raising funds for the future of our country, for the future of our lives,” she said.

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