Scholarship group founder still involved

By Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate June 14, 2012 01:00 am

Doris Whalen started effort back in 1966

At the Del Norte Scholarship Foundation reception last week, 497 awards totalling $359,100 were given to graduating high school seniors on their way to college.

Doris Whalen, the founder of the Scholarship Foundation, was honored for her years of service. This was the first year she wasn’t organizing the scholarships.

“I’ve been head coordinator since it started,” Whalen said. “I’m 86 years old, it’s time for me to kinda retire.”

Despite her age and a bout of shingles, former teacher Whalen isn’t ready to completely let go of the Scholarship Foundation she created in 1966. She stepped down as coordinator, but is still helping out by sending receipts to the donors.

“It’s been such a part of my life, I can’t just walk away and say goodbye,” Whalen said.

Back in 1966, a few scholarships were given to graduating seniors, probably about $3,000, she said. Whalen read an article about Dollars for Scholars, an idea born on the East Coast that if everyone in a community gave a dollar its kids would be able to attend college.

Whalen thought, “We can do that.”

A teacher at the time, she talked to the counselors at Del Norte High School and they started contacting people in town to donate money for scholarships.

“We sent out the message to organizations, individuals and businesses,” Whalen said. “The response was just outstanding.”

She formed the Del Norte Scholarship Foundation with Del Norte County Unified School District and the first scholarships under that banner were given out in 1966.

“It’s one of the things that I feel

really good about in my career,” Whalen said.

Businesses, clubs, organizations, individuals, families, alumni, memorials and trusts all give to the Scholarship Foundation.

Since retiring in 1999 after 50 years of teaching, the scholarship foundation has kept Whalen busy. Her former students now help her run it. She enjoys watching students be awarded with scholarships to college and knows it’s a source of pride to those who give money.

“It just fills me with joy when (students) get called up there,” Whalen said about the scholarship reception held Wednesday. “People who give, feel a sense of accomplishment: They’re helping youth. And they certainly need it today.”

She mentioned $100,000 in scholarships given to 35 students from Klamath River Early College of the Redwoods through the College Access Foundation of California.

KRECR has received funding from College Access for scholarship to its graduating students, and requested $100,000 available to all seniors in Del Norte, which was granted.

Whalen said she’s going to stay involved with the Scholarship Foundation, and also still tutors kids just because she loves to be around them.

Even though her recent illness has slowed her down, Whalen said, “I’m not going to let it get me!”