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News / Business / Clark County Business

Ridgefield Golden Grads’ scholarship will be for students interested in Clark College trades programs

Alumni raise money to send high school graduates to Clark College

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 22, 2024, 6:06am

A group of Ridgefield High School alumni — the Ridgefield Golden Grads — are looking to help graduates interested in trades programs at Clark College.

With Clark College nearing completion of its new trades-focused Boschma Farms campus in Ridgefield, alumni behind the scholarship are calling it a “perfect marriage” for Ridgefield graduates.

“There’s some good-paying jobs out there. There’s a lot of people whose forte isn’t to sit in a classroom. People want to get out and work,” said Pete Bartel, chairman of the Golden Grads scholarship committee. “We realize there’s lots of kids who won’t be able to go through these programs without help.”

The bulk of money for the scholarship is raised at Ridgefield alumni’s 50th reunion each year. Former grads hold a silent auction where all the money raised for things such as golf clubs to beach house rentals goes to a scholarship fund.

Last year, for example, the Ridgefield Golden Grads awarded $5,000 to one student in the nursing program at Clark College. Eligible applicants can be graduates of Ridgefield High School from any year, not just 2024. Students must have at least a 2.5 GPA and be interested in pursuing a vocational program at Clark.

Jim Rinta, another member of the scholarship committee, said this year’s scholarship would be similarly structured, and students could receive up to $5,000 each for their first year.

The Golden Grads’ 2024 social is set for 1 p.m. May 19 at the Ridgefield High School Commons. Applications for the scholarship can be sent to the Clark College scholarship office; the deadline is April 16.

“We appreciate the Golden Grads’ commitment to training that leads to living-wage jobs and the continued growth of northern Clark County,” a Clark College Foundation spokesperson said Thursday.

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Sparking interest in trades

The Ridgefield Golden Grads first developed a scholarship in 2011, when the class of 1961 had its 50-year reunion. The group handed out three scholarships for $1,000 each, geared toward students with limited financial means interested in pursuing higher education.

Rinta said when he and his classmates from the 1960s and ’70s were in high school, there was much more exposure to vocational programs. This scholarship, he said, is an effort to help give more of today’s students an opportunity to engage with such career paths.

“There used to be some great apprenticeships programs kids could walk into right out of high school,” Rinta said. “In the ’90s, those vocational programs were almost wiped out in Washington. The hands-on skills went away.”

U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, has been a huge proponent for such vocational programs and trade apprenticeships since running for office in 2022.

“We cannot continue to privilege one form of intelligence over another. (Students in trades programs) have incredible gifts, and we’re squandering them in many cases,” said Perez in January while touring Career and Technical Education classrooms at Washougal High School.

Rinta said he feels that in recent years there’s finally been a renewed understanding that trades programs are valuable, too.

“I think the pendulum is starting to come back the other direction. It’s a cycle,” he said. “They’re realizing that kids don’t have the skills that are necessary for a lot of these jobs.”

For more information about the scholarship, contact the Golden Grads via email at SpudderGoldenGrads@gmail.com or reach out to the Clark College financial aid office at finaidschol@clark.edu.