By Jim Tortolano
“Anything is possible if you work hard enough,” was the mantra promoted both by Sequoia Elementary School principal Michelle Watkins and State Treasurer John Chiang on Tuesday afternoon.
Of course, it helps to have some money to go along with all that effort. A good work ethic and a sound savings plan were among the keynotes of a ceremony held at Sequoia to honor and announce the winners of the “Scholar Dollars” school grant winners.
At the Westminster school campus, state and local officials were on hand to honor three Orange County campuses – two of them in the Westminster School District – which won cash for schools’ offerings, including extra-curricular and after-school programs
Sequoia was awarded $10,000 and district mate Willmore Elementary School the same amount. Santiago Elementary of Santa Ana will receive $20,000. Nicole Jacobson is the principal of Willmore, and Norris Perez the principal of Santiago.
After a spirited warm-up by the costumed “Diploma Dog” (who later became “Dollar Dog”), Chiang addressed the students and others gathered in the quad.
“We want you to see you have a bright and brilliant future,” he said, lauding the state’s Scholarshare program helping families save money for college.
“We all know that a well-rounded education is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said and then asked students to raise their hands if they planned to go to college. Nearly every hand went up.
“This is great. And through hard work and determination, I am confident that all of you will have the opportunity to attend the college of your choice,” he said, pitching the Scholarshare program as a way to accumulate the money for higher education.
Twenty California elementary and middle/intermediate schools in California were awarded the Scholarshare Scholar Dollars in amounts ranging from $5000 to $25,000.
Scholar Dollars is funded through TIAA, which administers the State of California’s college savings plan ScholarShare. Residents invested money in their Scholarshare Account and the program has disbursed over $379 million in redemptions for college, according to the state treasurer’s office. Account-holders set aside an average of $24,886 in savings for college.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, giant replica checks were presented to the three Orange County schools that won the grants and the event closed with a performance by the Sequoia student choir.
“When I was a young my parents used to take us to the bank and deposit a dollar a week,” recalled Chiang. “And when they made a little bit more money, it was $2 a week, and when they made a little bit more, $3 a week.” It all added up, and savings by Californians in the Scholarshare program have added up to some serious cash for three Orange County schools.”