By Tim Gardner
The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC) approved scholarships totaling $516,250 to 90 WNC students in 57 high schools in 21 counties with three area recipients receiving coveted funds from the organization.
Top recipient Zachary (Zach) Vance from Avery County High School in Newland (Class of 2022) was awarded the Powers Scholarship for Avery County Schools valued at $16,000 over four years. He also received the Martha Guy Scholarship through the CFWNC, valued at $3,500. The latter scholarship is named for the long-time Avery County Bank owner and Avery community activist.
Vance is attending the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he plans to major in mechatronics.
He was an honors student at Avery High all four of his years as a student there (2018-19 through-2021-22), ranking in the Top Ten percent of his classes. Vance also was a Graduation Marshall his junior year (2020-21). And he was in the USA Skills Club that provided college and other post-high school preparation in various trades, including drafting and woodworking.
Additionally, Vance was a star wrestler for the Avery High Vikings. He wrestled in the heavyweight classification his freshman and sophomore seasons and in the 220-pound weight class as a junior and senior.
He was a North Carolina High School Athletics Association State Wrestling Tournament runner-up his junior season. He also was a member of five state championship wrestling teams combined his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. Avery won both the dual-team and the team-tournament title in 2020, the team-tournament in 2021 when dual-team was not available and both the dual-team and individual tournament again in 2022.
Vance also played center for the Avery High football team his senior season.
Vance offered the following quotes to High Country Press about receiving the CFWNC scholarships: “I’m deeply honored to receive these scholarships and especially happy that some people that I’ve never even met thought highly enough of me to award them to me. I can certainly use the financial help. And I’ll work hard and study diligently in college to earn good grades and make the most of my college experience to prepare me for my professional life after college.”
Two others from the High Country received scholarships. Peighton Robison from Mitchell High School was awarded the Charles C. and Suzanne R. McKinney Scholarship valued at $20,000 over four years and a one-time Newton Academy-Forster/Stevens Scholarship Fund Scholarship valued at $1,000. She plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Olivia Biddix of Mitchell High was also awarded a scholarship.
Scholarship endowments can have broad eligibility criteria or can be focused on a particular school or county, offered to students pursuing a degree in a stated field or available to those who will attend a designated college or university.
More than 60 volunteers from the community worked to review applications and select recipients.
“It’s an absolute highlight of my year to be able to interview these gifted, amazing students, and to know the scholarships through CFWNC are helping them meet challenges ahead and attain successful futures,” said Diane Hagenbuch, scholarship committee member, in a general press release. “The members of our committee work well together to select the student we feel best represents the qualifications outlined, which is not easy given the considerable talent of the students. At the end of the process, we all feel confident that these students are going to be exceptional leaders in the future.”
The Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to build a permanent pool of charitable capital for the counties of Western North Carolina including the Qualla Boundary. Its representatives work with individuals, families and corporations to create and manage charitable funds and make grants to nonprofits or public agencies in the region it serves.
A permanent charitable resource, the Foundation manages over 1,200 funds and facilitated $23.5 million in grants last year. That total brings its giving to more than $328 million in scholarships to students and grants to nonprofit organizations and public institutions across its region and beyond since its founding in 1978.
The Foundation manages $425 million (as of March 2022) in assets with a long-term investment strategy that permanently protects and grows these funds.
Further details about The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina can be accessed by logging online at www.cfwnc.org.