A small town with a generous heart for its youth

Over the past 20 years, community members have raised $1 Million for a scholarship fund to help...
Over the past 20 years, community members have raised $1 Million for a scholarship fund to help graduating seniors pursue higher education.(WBAY)
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 2:41 PM CDT
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GRESHSAM, Wis. (WBAY) - A small village in Shawano County has accomplished an amazing feat over the past 20 years.

It means thousands of dollars for each graduating high school senior in the Class of 2021.

Just over 500 residents make up Gresham, Wisconsin.

Two decades ago, a few of them in this small town came up with a big idea.

“It was an interesting undertaking when you first started it, I remember the meetings going I don’t know if we can even do this,” recalls Gresham Superintendent Newell Haffner.

In 2001, the community founded the Gresham Scholarship Fund to help graduating seniors pay for higher education.

20 years later, the fund has grown to $1 million.

What’s even more amazing is there has not been one, single large donor.

“And that’s the truth, it’s been $10 here, $20 here, $25, $200, $1000 here, $5,000 there, it’s been interesting to see, when they told me a million I was shocked,” says Haffner.

“I mean that’s a true testament to the people and the businesses, like rallying around each other and pouring back into education and pouring back into the future,” adds Gresham 2nd grade teacher and past scholarship recipient Ben Smith.

Smith feels the scholarship fund highlights the community’s compassion.

“I think the scholarship just means opportunity, a lot of these kids in this community are coming from a poverty stricken area so anytime you can add to that pot and that scholarship you’re doing yourself some justice there,” says Smith.

To receive the scholarship, seniors must simply apply and maintain a 2.0 grade point average.

When the scholarship first started, students received $400.

This year’s class, which graduates Saturday, will get a lot more.

“I’ve heard a couple of them talk that they couldn’t believe they get 3,250 bucks for graduation this year, they find that as a huge help to them to go to school,” says Haffner.

“I think it’s really cool that such a small community can get the million dollars so we have the opportunity to have the higher amount of scholarship. I will use it for college for sure, it’s very helpful for how expensive college is,” says Gresham Senior Addison Boucher.

Gresham Scholarship Fund Board Member Andrea Quinney says an annual banquet is the scholarship fund’s largest fundraiser, with items from local businesses donated for auction.

But throughout the year, money trickles in.

Pride in Gresham runs deep.

“And everybody wants everyone to succeed, it’s not like we try to better the Joneses, we want them to succeed, we want everyone to succeed and that’s the difference with our community,” says Quinney with a smile.

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