DirectLink Focuses on Education Through Scholarship Programs – The Canby Current | Team Cansler

For more than 30 years, DirectLink has been a steadfast supporter of local students seeking higher education and career opportunities, sponsoring local, statewide and national scholarship programs that have impacted thousands of high school graduates, college students and adult learners.

One of the most significant investments made in local higher education by the telecommunications cooperative that serves Canby and Mt. Angel is a $162,000 grant in 1991 that established the Canby Rotary Foundation.

“This initial grant became the first building block for Canby Rotary’s current grant program, which has awarded more than $400,000 to 388 local grantees,” said Charlie Stinson, president of the Canby Rotary Foundation.

This year alone, the Canby Rotary Foundation awarded $48,500 to 26 high school seniors and current college students. In addition, Stinson says, the foundation’s funds have grown to more than $550,000, supporting not only the scholarship program but other charitable work throughout the community.

DirectLink also continues to directly fund two scholarships administered by the Canby Rotary Foundation, including the DirectLink Scholarship Fund, which offers multiple scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $1,500 for high school and college students whose families live in the agency’s service area and are current customers.

Emileni Lopez-Alfaro, winner of the 2019 Maureen Ernst Memorial Scholarship, with family members of Ernst.

Maureen Ernest.

“We have a great partnership with Rotary,” said Janet Bailey, DirectLink’s vice president of member services. “They do a fantastic job with our programs and all the other sponsorships they do. We are proud to support their work.”

The cooperative’s commendable efforts also include three scholarships named for longtime DirectLink directors or employees in their Canby and Mt. Angel service areas, one of which is the Don Peterson Memorial Scholarship.

Don Peterson was an active community leader and charter member of the Rotary Club of Canby, serving as club president in 1983 and 1984. He was also the longtime chairman of DirectLink.

“This scholarship recognizes outstanding leadership in a Canby High School senior,” said Bailey. Established in 2015, the scholarship is awarded once a year in the amount of US$1,500.

DirectLink also supports two other grants that honor longtime Mt. Angel employees who are passionate about their community.

Ibeth Gomez, winner of the 2020 Maureen Ernst Memorial Scholarship, with her family.

Established in 2018 by the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce, the Maureen Ernst Memorial Scholarship Fund is supported by community fundraisers and proceeds from the Mt. Angel Hazelnut Fest (now known as Chriskindlemarket), which Ernst co-founded, and a yearbook donation per DirectLink.

Ernst was a longtime employee of what was then the Mt. Angel Telephone Company and spearheaded the creation of the popular Member Appreciation Day event that DirectLink hosts in that community to this day.

She was also a tireless supporter of the Chamber of Commerce and volunteered in a variety of community activities.

“For Maureen, it was so important to volunteer and give back to the community,” said Mt. Angel Chamber Treasurer Kristi Brackinreed. “When I started working in the city, she immediately contacted me, took me out to lunch, and immediately became my mentor.”

Brackinreed says she has joined the board of directors of the Mt. Angel Chamber and has become much more involved in her community due to Ernst’s influence.

2020 Maureen Ernst Memorial Fellow Elise Suing.

“We knew we wanted to do something to honor her when she died, and giving a grant in her memory to a student who is also volunteering and giving back to her community feels appropriate,” says Brackinreed. “We miss her so much and so many of the things we continue to do with Chamber are because of her and how much we love her.”

The scholarship awards an unrestricted $2,000 and recognizes an exceptional Kennedy High School senior who donates their time to community and school activities.

“It embodies her spirit,” says Bailey of Maureen Ernst. “She was very passionate about serving the community and volunteering in school activities and things like that. I’ve had the honor of knowing her and the community of Mt. Angel was so important to her.”

DirectLink also makes an annual contribution to the Diana Coleman Memorial Scholarship honoring another longtime Mt. Angel Telephone employee. It is administered by the Oregon Telecommunications Association (OTA) Scholarship Foundation, which offers continuing education scholarships to employees and immediate family members of OTA telecommunications and telecommunications provider members operating in the state of Oregon.

Coleman was a 30-year employee of what was then the Mt. Angel Telephone Company (later integrated into DirectLink), starting as an accountant and working her way up to office manager, vice president and eventually general manager of the company. She was also a permanent board member of the OTA Scholarship Foundation.

Spencer Bizon, winner of the 2020 Maureen Ernst Memorial Scholarship (left), pictured with Mt. Angel junior Lydia Berning.

The OTA Scholarship Foundation created this award to honor Coleman’s death in 2013. Unlike the OTA’s other awards, which are largely academic-based, this scholarship honors one of Coleman’s greatest passions: students who have met adversity and persevered and triumphed over their difficulties.

“It focuses on someone who really beat all the odds, because that’s what Diana was about,” says Bailey. “It’s not necessarily about their grade point average or anything like that; It’s really about someone who has faced a lot of adversity and is successful.”

Bailey, who currently serves as president of the Oregon Telephone Association’s scholarship committee, spoke highly of the applicants she sees come through each year.

“It’s really a neat process to go through,” she says. “It’s very inspiring. I think back to when I was a high school grad and I wasn’t as impressive as some of those kids.”

Finally, DirectLink is an active supporter and member of the Foundation for Rural Service’s grant program (yes, Canby is still considered “rural” — at least by FRS standards), which has since awarded more than $1 million in grants across the country was founded in 1994.

These scholarships are available to students in their freshman year of college or trade school when sponsored by a member company of the Rural Broadband Association, of which DirectLink is a member.

Education is a key value for DirectLink, Bailey says, and establishing and supporting scholarship programs is one of the ways they show it.

“Education is very important to the company and it was something that was very important to people like Maureen Ernst, Don Peterson and Diana Coleman,” she says. “This generation is our future and that is why we want to invest. Education is important to all of us. We see it every day.”

Time and time again, Bailey has witnessed the incredible impact these programs have on recipients each year. She shared an example of a scholarship recently awarded to the adult son of a DirectLink employee who wanted to attend trade school to further his career.

“He wasn’t a typical student because he was older, married, and had kids,” says Bailey. “The scholarship was huge for him because he was trying to support a family, work and go to school. In these cases, something like this can mean the difference between being able to walk or not.

“He even thanked us personally for the impact the scholarship had on his life.”

For DirectLink-sponsored Canby-based scholarships, visit the Canby Rotary Foundation website or call Member Services in Canby at 503-266-8111 or Mt. Angel at 503-845-1120 to learn about other opportunities Experienced.

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