NEW BUFFALO — The Pokagon Fund has awarded $100,000 to 20 Harbor Country residents to attend the post-secondary institution of their choice for the 2019-20 school year.

While some recipients will be transitioning directly from high school to a four-year institution or vocational school, others will be returning adults who are seeking better career and work opportunities.

Adult recipients include: Laima Augustaitis, Master of Science in Information, University of Michigan School of Information; Luke Linscheid, Doctorate of Nursing Practice, Michigan State University; Kristin Lugbill, Master of Arts, School Counseling, Western Michigan University; Amy Putzke, Bachelor’s Degree, Early Childhood Education from Western Governors University; and Jacob Zapor, Master of Fine Arts, Maine College of Art.

High school students receiving scholarships include: Kaitlyn Biela, Ferris State University; Joshua Clark, Lake Superior State University; Olivia Haberichter, Michigan State University; Alexander Schmock, Southwestern Michigan College; Lucy Johnson, Carroll University; Althea McGreehan, Grand Valley State University; Morgan Motycka, Purdue University Northwest; Julia Maldonado, Southwestern Michigan College; Miloh Padgett, Michigan Technological University or Cal. Poly Tech; Libby Price, Michigan State University; Alilyn Purcell, Michigan State University; Jessie Rieth, Calvin College; Madison Vollman, Lake Michigan College; Annabelle Yanz, Grand Valley State University; and Joseph Turcotte, Michigan State University.

“The Pokagon Fund focuses on increasing postsecondary attainment while eliminating the gaps for those students who have the greatest financial needs,” said TPF Board Member and Treasurer, Debbie Schmidt. “Research shows that people who obtain a bachelor’s degree earn on average $1 million more over their lifetimes than a high school graduate.”

Including this year’s awards, The Pokagon Fund has granted over $5 million in scholarship and education-based grants since inception, representing 20 percent of the over $25 million given.  

“The adult scholarships are particularly important because adults transitioning back to school have a much more difficult time obtaining financial support in contrast to high school students entering college for the first time,” explained the Fund’s Executive Director Janet Cocciarelli. “Often, these individuals aren’t aware that funding is available, so we have increased our efforts to reach our adult population in Harbor Country. In 2020, we will increase our total funding of scholarships from $100,000 to $125,000.”

In addition to the $5 million donated in educational funding by the Fund, the New Buffalo Area School District has received over $10 million in funding from the Four Winds Casino (through the Local Revenue Sharing Board) for the New Buffalo Educational Trust Fund that provides the Bison Pokagon Scholarships ($25,000 over five years for graduating seniors).  In total, $15 million in educational funding has been donated to the community by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.  

Of total recipients in 2019, five adults have been awarded a total of $25,500.  The Adult Students in Scholastic Transition (ASIST) program was launched in 2012 by the Fund, and financial awards may be used for professional certificate programs, licensure, two-and four-year undergraduate degrees and graduate school. Grant award amounts vary each year and may be renewable for multiple-year programs.  Traditional high school scholarships represented the remaining $74,500 distributed.  

The Pokagon Fund is a non-profit, private foundation supported by revenue from the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan.  The Fund’s mission is to enhance the lives of residents of Southwest Michigan through the financial support of projects aimed at supporting education, alleviating poverty and increasing community vitality. Since the organization’s inception in 2007, The Pokagon Fund has provided over $25 million in grant awards and scholarships.

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