The Briarwood County Club scholarship program, now in its 24th year, has become one of the longest running and largest programs of its kind across the country, according to Sherri Dorman, a 23-year scholarship foundation board member.
At this year’s scholarship awards night Tuesday, grants ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 were awarded to 24 deserving employees, as well as children of employees, to help support their futures.
Born and raised in Deerfield, Samantha Ford, 25, was one of the recipients. She has worked at the club in the pro shop for the last 11 years. Ford holds a Bachelor of Elementary Education, and is currently working towards her Master’s Degree at National Lewis University.
Ford ultimately wants to be a middle school teacher in language arts or social studies, but the road to her dream hasn’t been easy, in light of education budget cuts rampant in the current economy.
“It’s been a difficult and frustrating process not getting a teaching position yet; there were days I questioned if this was the career for me, but I was always encouraged by the (Briarwood) members to stick with it-I have so much support from them not only financially, but emotionally,” Ford said.
Ford recognizes something much more than financial aid has been gifted to her by Briarwood.
“Briarwood has become my second family, the members treat me like family and are so encouraging,” Ford said. “In the future, I want to give back to others to show them the impact their generosity has had on my life. “I want them to be proud of me.”
Schatz Gets Sense of Pride
Twenty-year-old Highland Park native Bryan Schatz also was named one of the 2012 Briarwood scholars.
“This experience for me carries a lot of weight,” Schatz said. “There is a sense of pride, and I am confident all of the scholars feel this because of the confidence Briarwood’s members have in us and our futures.”
Schatz said he plans to “change the world” and wants to work promoting the use of green technology in the corporate world to help save the environment.
He has worked as a caddy and in the golf club’s rack room for the last eight years. He will be a junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in Earth Sciences and Environmental Systems.
“It is understood that there is a great thanks from the employees, but I just want to say to Briarwood’s membership, that they are amazing and a huge part of all of our futures,” Schatz said.
Merit and Financial Need Are Factors
The Briarwood Scholarship Foundation chooses scholars each year based on merit, financial need and length of service to the club.
Employees also have to write a letter explaining why they should be a Briarwood scholar, and a letter of recommendation is required from their supervisors, according to Stacy Cohen, who has been a co-chair of the Briarwood scholarship program for the last four years.
“For a lot of the kids who have gotten the scholarship, they are the first in their family that are going to college, it is mind-blowing to me how we can truly impact their futures,” Cohen said.
The idea behind what has become the scholarship program dates back to 1988, when Eddie Sheldon, one of the club’s founding members, died. A group of five other founding members, led by Harold “Hank” Ellman, wanted to honor Sheldon’s legacy with a scholarship.
Sheldon was known to have a soft spot for the club’s employees as well as being that person who would always lend a helping hand when someone needed it.
Ellman Pushed to Honor Sheldon
Ellman led the charge to establish the scholarship foundation, and the first awards night was held in 1989, where $12,000 in college grants were awarded.
“I know Hank would be so proud of all of our scholars, this scholarship program meant everything to him-he would work 12 months a year on this,” Dorman said.
Ellman died in 1999 after a battle against Lymphoma, but his legacy too, has lived on in the overwhelming success and reach the program has had.
The effect the scholarship program has had on the lives, and futures, of the increasing number of past and present employees, has been truly profound.
“I made the theme of this year’s scholarship night, Pay it Forward” Dorman said. “The good that we have done has come back to us ten-fold, it is such a special night, and something we are very proud of, the scholarship program has made a difference in so many lives.”
“The trustees take very good care of this program, but it’s the membership that is so interested in our scholars and their futures, and what helps it to keep growing each and every year,” Cohen said.