2020 is the 39th time that The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund is making scholarship awards. In our first year, 1982, we awarded one $500.00 scholarship. The scholarships have grown to $5,000 for each recipient and now also include at least one $20,000 scholarship that extends over 4 years. This year in 2020, 29 students received a total of $175,000 in scholarships. Since our 1982 beginning, several hundred students have received close to one million dollars in scholarships.
In the ‘80’s, teachers from the School District of Lancaster’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, at the suggestion of the school principal at that time, took over a scholarship program that was originally begun by a community committee, which included the principal Ray Smith and a teacher from King Elementary School, Embre “Judy” Thomas. The teachers at the school contributed toward a scholarship for a graduating senior at J.P. McCaskey who planned to go on to post-secondary education and who had attended King Elementary School. Today any graduating senior at the J.P. McCaskey High School campuses is eligible to apply for a scholarship. Successful applicants must demonstrate academic excellence, service to school and community, and financial need. Since the transition to higher education can be difficult, our scholarship aid has generally been awarded during the students’ first year to give them a supportive start.
For the past several years, the Fund presented a 4-year, $20,000 scholarship in loving memory of our late board member Nelson Polite, Sr. who faithfully served this board and his community in so many ways. Nelson’s life was devoted to expanding opportunities for all citizens of Lancaster. We could think of no better way to honor the memory of our beloved friend than to present a four-year scholarship in his name.
The students chosen to receive a scholarship go through a rigorous application process and interviews, have great motivation to succeed, and reflect in their lives the values for which Dr. King stood. Many of our former recipients have gone on to receive medical degrees, PhDs, and other advanced degrees. Today, they are accountants, teachers, lawyers, nurses, business people, and are represented in many other professions.
The Mayor of the City of Lancaster is the Honorary Chair of the organization. We are pleased and proud that former Mayors Arthur Morris, Janice Stork, Charles Smithgall, and J. Richard Gray have all supported these scholarships. We welcomed the support of our present Mayor Danene Sorace in 2018.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church has been an important partner from the very beginning, and we are very grateful. It is at the church where the Board meets regularly, where the interviews take place, and where the Awards Dinner is held. The church also faithfully contributes a named $5,000 scholarship each year.
The Fund receives excellent cooperation from the School District of Lancaster, especially from the guidance/counseling staff at J.P. McCaskey High School, the administration, and several teachers from the School District of Lancaster who serve on our Board.
Most recently the Fund has grown in its ability to serve more students because of the generosity of the law firm of Hagelgans & Veronis. The two partners, Nicholas A. Veronis and James D. Hagelgans, are proud graduates of J.P. McCaskey High School. Because they recognize that higher education has helped them achieve their goals, they have chosen the Fund as a way to give back to their community. They have generously contributed over $200,000 dollars for scholarships in the past five years to this Fund to help empower and educate our deserving scholarship recipients to give them the knowledge to be the leaders of tomorrow.
The law firm also sponsors this website, and Nicholas Veronis is on the Board. We appreciate this support in so many different ways which helps our Fund to further its vision of “Empowering Students to Fulfill His Dream.”