Thirteen apply for new scholarships as school aims to recruit students from varied backgrounds

Allison Zhang
Director of admission Lonna Bloedau reads over a packet in her office.

To increase diversity in the high school, Country Day will add two new scholarships in the 2017-18 school year.

These need- and merit-based scholarships will be offered “to students from diverse backgrounds in the greater Sacramento region who may lack the full financial resources to access the highest quality education,” head of school Lee Thomsen said in an email on Nov. 30.

Since the Board of Trustees broke off the school’s connection with Breakthrough, the school’s goal is to continue the tradition of offering financial aid to students from under-resourced schools, Thomsen said.

The scholarships will be available to incoming ninth graders and last for all four years of high school.

Director of admissions Lonna Bloedau said that in addition to tuition, the scholarships will cover the costs of textbooks and class trips and other items “on a case-by-case basis.”

The application deadline was Feb. 1, and Bloedau said the admissions office will have answers for the 13 students who applied by Saturday, April 1.

The school’s only other merit scholarship – the SCDS Merit Scholars Program – was started nearly 30 years ago and lasted from 1988-98. It awarded renewable half-tuition grants to five incoming ninth graders based on academic and extracurricular leadership.

 But this one will specifically target diverse students from low-income households.

“The program will carry forth our dedication to under-served students in the Sacramento area,” Bloedau said.

“It’s a hallmark of our commitment to a broader community. We want to be able to reach students who otherwise have no way of attending an independent school.”

Although it’s designed for under-served students, the scholarship’s guidelines have been left purposefully vague.

“Strength in academics, entrepreneurship, anything (could be the deciding factor),” Thomsen said.

However, Country Day will not recruit or give scholarships to athletes, a result of a rule created by the California Interscholastic Federation.

According to Bloedau, the scholarship application follows the same guidelines as a normal application with a few key additions.

“We’re going to ask the scholar candidates for a different essay – a more reflective essay,” said Bloedau.

“We are looking for students to demonstrate an aspect of their lives that goes beyond academic capability.”

The additional information includes evidence of participation in extracurricular activities and community service.

The creation of the scholarship was charged to Thomsen as one of his first tasks as head of school.

Thomsen explained that the idea stemmed from Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was principal of the upper school until the end of the 2015-16 school year.

Rowland Hall was given a grant by the Malone Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is “to improve access to quality education for gifted students who lack the financial resources to best develop their talents,” according to the foundation website.

Although similar in its purpose, Country Day’s scholarship is supported by donors.

“Scholarships are a wonderful fundraising opportunity,” Thomsen said. “There are donors in the community who want to change a child’s life.”

An advantage of a donor-supported scholarship over a grant-supported scholarship is that Country Day can set its own parameters for who might receive it.

Thomsen said students in the program would receive support for the cultural transition from a public to private school, skills such as studying and note-taking and other tools for academic success.

To introduce the Scholars Program to the community, director of technology Tom Wroten and director of advancement Carolyn Woolf have created a promotional video that will air at the annual auction on Saturday, Feb. 25.

By Sahej Claire

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