GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Post-secondary students from throughout the Itasca County area went back to school this fall with support from Blandin Foundation. At their fall meeting last week in Bigfork, Minn., Blandin Foundation trustees approved $913,000 in Education Awards for 322 local students over the 2012-13 school year.
Trustees also budgeted $950,000 for education awards for the following school year, with applications due May 1, 2013. Blandin Foundation scholarships also are available directly through Itasca Community College and through Arrowhead Economic Development Agency.
“Education beyond high school was one of the great passions of Charles Blandin,” said Sonja Merrild, director of grants for the Foundation. “He recognized that support for education is at the heart of any resilient, vibrant community. We are proud to continue his work today through our need-based scholarships, the Blandin Foundation Education Awards.”
Charles Blandin was owner of the Blandin Paper Mill and founded the Blandin Foundation, which are now completely separate organizations. Since the Foundation’s first scholarship in 1956, more than $19 million has been provided to 14,260 students under age 25 who graduate from high schools in Itasca County, plus Hill City, Blackduck, Northome, Remer, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School, or who are home-schooled in those communities.
Education awards are available based on need, so that every local student has an opportunity to pursue education beyond high school at an accredited college, university, technical college, community college or training/certification program in the United States. The program is focused on helping to fill unmet need, geared to students for whom education after high school is otherwise out of reach. Seventy percent of the awards for 2012-13 supported students with household incomes of less than $50,000.
“Our trustees and staff recognize the possibilities that come with education, and celebrate that local students are making ambitious, hopeful choices for their futures,” said Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. “Communities are stronger with every success of every child, and we are honored to stand with students, families and communities in embracing our youth, from cradle to career.”
Applications for 2013-14 awards will be available through the Foundation website and office as of Jan. 1 and are due May 1, 2013. Details are at itasca.blandinfoundation.org.
Trustees focused on community resilience
In addition to action related to scholarships, Blandin Foundation trustees spent their fall meeting, Sept. 16-18, exploring resilience of small rural communities.
Judy Roy, an elder and former tribal secretary of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, shared stories with trustees and guests of resilience in her community. “We are some of the most resilient people on the earth,” said Roy. “Very few other peoples in the world have survived explicit government policies of extermination.”
Roy shared the commitment and work of her community in overcoming the loss of hopefulness that came with past policies and traumas such as shootings in the Red Lake community in 2004. “In Indian Country, we need to forgive ourselves. Then we can move up from a negative outlook to being resilient,” she said.
Eric Bergeson, who owns the multi-generational Bergeson Nursery in Fertile, Minn., also described for trustees and a variety of guests his community’s renaissance, which he attributed to a series of events beginning in the mid-1990s. “Often people need to bust through the notion that there’s a ‘they’ out there, that there’s someone else who will lead in their communities,” said Bergerson. He described how three residents of their small town believed that a golf course could change that declining community’s trajectory, which then triggered a series of others leading in more—often small–ways, believing that Fertile is worth investment and creating a much more hopeful future. His story is captured in a video available at the blandinfoundation.org website.
Kathy Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO, also shared what she has been hearing through listening meetings in the Itasca County area during the past year. Common challenges have been around youth development, viability of local economies and persistent transportation barriers. She also reported on the Foundation’s statewide survey, Rural Pulse, which found that 87 percent of rural Minnesotans felt they were able to make an impact and make their community a better place to live. “We know that when rural communities are hopeful, they claim their futures and make ambitious choices,” she said. “We also know that bringing people together to cultivate hopefulness and to make those choices takes hard work and leadership.”
Possible photo caption: Leaders from through the Itasca County area joined Blandin Foundation trustees at Bigfork’s Edge Performing Arts Center to share stories and explore opportunities for community resilience.