Maggie O'Mara: Behind the Scenes

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Scholarship Hero

by Maggie O'Mara

Bio | Email | Follow: @maggiektvb7


Posted on June 15, 2009 at 7:47 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 11:10 AM

"Turn Around Kids" Scholarship

Our Seven's Hero this week is pretty incredible, so I thought I should BLOG about her too. Her name is Alyson Townsley - she's an alternative high school counselor who realized there just weren't many scholarship opportunities out there for her at-risk students.

So, she decided to MAKE them. She created the "Turn Around Kids" Scholarship Program. This year, after a lot of hard work, two graduating seniors were awarded partial scholarships to college!

Alyson Townsley.jpg
Alyson Townsley

How did she do it? She found out the Idaho Community Foundation could help her start a scholarship fund - but she had to come up with a $25,000 endowment first. It wasn't easy, but she raised the money through letter writing, grants and donations!

"Anyone can start one and do one, so I just went in there, and started it. The interest every year would be paid to scholarships." - Alyson Townsley

Two alternative high school graduates who overcame tough backgrounds to succeed in school - were awarded scholarships this year. I had the chance to meet one of them - Samantha Walsh - and her story is a heartbreaking one. She lost both her parents and was left to fend for herself.

Samantha Walsh.JPG
Samantha Walsh

"My dad passed away in Oct of 2007, and my mom went missing August 16th of 2008 and never came back." -Samantha Walsh, Meridian Academy Graduate 2009

On top of the loss of her parents, Samantha also became a teenage mother during that trying time... she was just 16. But somehow - despite all the odds, she managed to graduate last month - with a 4.0 GPA. Sam plans to go to the College of Idaho in the fall, and she wants to be a pediatrician.

Samantha Walsh & Baby.JPG

"For all that she's been through, she has that dream and I'd love to see her get there. The alternative schools are places where there are amazingly resilient kids." - Alyson Townsley

Alyson told me education is the key to breaking the cycles a lot of these kids are caught up in. She wants to keep raising more money for the fund, so even more kids can have a shot at scholarship money.

I don't think we thank teachers, and counselors enough for all they do for kids - and for our community!

Thank you Alyson!