MARIETTA - Higher education may seem out of reach for many children brought up in foster homes, but a new scholarship program at Washington State Community College is focused on making it easier for those children to obtain a college degree.
"In April it was announced that the local Wendy's franchise would partner with the WSCC Foundation Board to raise funding for the scholarship program through key tag sales at Wendy's restaurants," said Claudia Owens, the college's executive director of marketing and public relations.
She said restaurant patrons who purchased key tags for $3 each to support the scholarship program were rewarded with a free Junior Frosty with every purchase at the local restaurants through Dec. 31.
"With the key tag sales Wendy's was able to raise $17,000 for the program," Owens said.
Ray and Kim Blackburn, owners of local Wendy's franchises in Parkersburg and Marietta, presented the scholarship endowment check Friday to Cynthia Pyles, chair of the college foundation board, and WSCC President Bradley Ebersole.
"We work with groups like Try-Again Homes in Parkersburg, and are active foster parents ourselves," Ray Blackburn said. "We feel our biggest job is to get the word out about the need for foster parents and to help foster kids."
At A Glance
* Students seeking to receive the Wendy's Adoption Scholarship must meet the following criteria:
* Submit a completed scholarship application to WSCC by March 15, 2014.
* Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
* Enroll as freshmen in their first year at Washington State Community College.
* Meet adoption or foster care requirements.
* Student is currently placed in foster care.
* Student was previously placed in foster care.
* Student was adopted by parent(s).
* For more information visit www.wscc.edu or call 374-8716.
Source: Washington State Community College.
He noted education can pose a challenge to foster children.
"Foster kids don't have a mom and dad to encourage them through their school years," Blackburn said. "They don't get the kind of support other kids may have from parents as they approach college age."
The $17,000 raised this year will go into the Wendy's Adoption Scholarship Endowment Fund at WSCC for college-aged students who are adopted or who have ever been in a foster care program.
Blackburn said for the last three years the local Wendy's have partnered with West Virginia University at Parkersburg where a similar scholarship program has been created.
"Now we're taking it to the other side of the Ohio River to help students who want to attend Washington State Community College," he said.
WSCC plans to award the scholarships annually.
Owens said the first round of Wendy's Adoption Scholarships are available to high school students in Ohio and West Virginia who will graduate in 2014.
Students must plan to enroll full time at WSCC beginning in the fall semester of 2014 and meet all requirements of the scholarship program, including being currently or previously placed in foster care, or having been adopted.
The deadline for submitting an application for the next school year is March 15, 2014, Owens said.
"The scholarship amounts will depend on financial need of students and the amount available in the scholarship fund," she said.
Pyles said the new scholarship program will help students succeed in realizing dreams of a college education.
"We are grateful to the Blackburns and Wendy's for their commitment to a very special group of Washington State students," she said.
Ebersole echoed her sentiments.
"Wendy's and the Blackburns have made a significant contribution to WSCC and to the community, and I value this partnership," he said.