ALAMEDA -- Applications are open for the $5,000 Ken and Shirley Van Sickle Scholarship, a college scholarship now in its 26th year.

In order to be eligible for the scholarship, students must reside in Alameda and attend one of the city's public high schools. Selection is based on a combination of academic achievement, leadership ability and financial need.

Keith Van Sickle, a 1976 graduate of Alameda High School, established the scholarship in honor of his parents and their dedication to public education. Ken and Shirley Van Sickle taught in Alameda, contributing a combined 50 years of service to the city's public schools before retiring. The elder Van Sickles met in Arizona while still in their teens, married and later moved to Alameda, where Ken Van Sickle served in the Coast Guard on Government Island. He worked at Alameda and Encinal high schools; she at Island High; both taught at Alameda Adult School. The couple focused on teaching business skills to young people, and Shirley Van Sickle authored a textbook on the subject.

When the Van Sickles worked as educators, there were only three public high schools on the island. Now, students from the Bay Area School of Enterprise, Alameda Science and Technology Institute and Alameda Community Learning Center are also eligible to apply. Over the years, the scholarship has received applications from students at all six public high schools.

"There are far more qualified applicants -- all great kids -- than we can support," Van Sickle said. "We'd love to give a dozen scholarships a year, but my wife and I fund it, so there's only so much to go around."


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The scholarship evaluates candidates on the basis of several factors, including financial need. Van Sickle and his wife "prefer to support someone for whom the money is a helping hand." Academic success is a requirement, but Van Sickle is clear that a student need not be a valedictorian to win the award. Rather, he looks for a combination of good grades and involvement in school or civic affairs. It is these students he believes show the most promise of contributing to society in the future.

"In the perfect case, we would like to make a small difference in someone's life," he explained. Van Sickle knows that the amount of money is modest compared to some academic scholarships, but he has reason to believe that every little bit helps.

Last year, a student whom the scholarship had supported 20 years ago tracked him down. They eventually met in person, and she said, "I just wanted to thank you. Your support, encouragement and vote of confidence really meant a lot to me."

Van Sickle said this kind of response is "exactly what we hope for."

Last year the scholarship was awarded to Lorraine Cawili of the Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), now a freshman at the University of Redlands. This year, the deadline for applications is March 15, and the award will be made in May. Application forms may be obtained from each high school's counseling office.

FYI
For further information about the Ken and Shirley Van Sickle Scholarship, contact Keith Van Sickle, 1030 College Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025 or call 650-580-1070 or email keith.vansickle@earthlink.net.