CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What started in 1968 as a single $25 scholarship given to a deserving graduate of East Bank High School has grown into a program that will award $3,000 scholarships to 15 college-bound graduates of Riverside High School's class of 2013.
On Wednesday, the East Bank High School Alumni Association got a jump start on plans to increase its annual scholarship offering to 25 $10,000 awards to Riverside grads, when Robert C. Orndorff Jr., Dominion's managing director for state and local affairs, presented the group a check for $10,000.
"We like to give back to the communities we work in, and education is important for all energy industries and a priority for Dominion," Orndorff said.
After East Bank and DuPont high schools were consolidated into Riverside High School in 1999, members of the East Bank alumni group decided to keep their scholarship program going and growing, this time targeting deserving college-bound Riverside graduates.
"About 80 percent of the students we award scholarships to are the first members of their family going to college," said alumni association member Bob Laing.
"Getting kids like that in college is important," said retired Adjutant General Allen E. Tackett, an East Bank alumnus who was himself the first in his family to earn a college degree. "They get their kids to go to college, and it sets a pattern - it changes the environment."
"Riverside has the highest number of students of any high school in the county, but it has the lowest number of graduates going on to college," said Bill James, president of the alumni association. "It all has to do with the economic situation in the eastern end of the Valley."
Of the 158 seniors awarded East Bank Alumni Association scholarships over the years, only two did not graduate from college.
Any graduating senior at Riverside High may apply for the Dana and Ethel Ervin Scholarships - named for a long-time East Bank principal and his wife -- no matter where they live or what middle school they attended. Scholarship awards are based on student essays, interviews with scholarship committee members, grade point average, and other criteria.
So far, the East Bank alumni have distributed $286,400 in scholarships. All money comes from donations from former East Bank students and teachers, and from the annual golf tournament Tackett initiated five years ago.
"We've been very successful at raising money for these scholarships," said Tackett. "That's what Pioneer spirit is all about."
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.