By Mara Certic
The Pierson High School class of 2014 graduated on Saturday, June 28, and awards were given out to many outstanding members of the class. Nell Dobbs was one of them, becoming the fourth student to receive the Katy’s Courage Scholarship fund.
After Katy Stewart lost her battle to cancer in 2010, her parents Brigid Collins and Jim Stewart started the Katy’s Courage Scholarship for Pierson High School Students.
“It was important for us to honor Katy’s memory by supporting education because she loved school and learning,” Ms. Collins said this week. “And her Mom and Dad are both educators. We wanted to put something forward that would help achieve her dreams.”
This scholarship amounts to $10,000, paid incrementally over four years, provided the recipients continue a certain level of academic achievement throughout their years of higher education.
The scholarship focuses on academia, of course, but the committee also looks for something else. “We’re looking for a little spark of something special,” Ms. Collins said. “A child that has an understanding of community and kindness to others in a way that stands out.”
“We get terrific, terrific applicants,” she continued. “The essay portion is the most important aspect to us—if they’re able to communicate to the committee something that makes them rather remarkable.”
The first recipient of the scholarship was Samara Finckenauer in 2011. Ms. Collins reflected on the first time that the committee assembled to read the anonymous applications and pick a winner. “We felt [Samara] had faced a lot of adversity in her life and had still been able to reach out and do a lot for other people. She was able to transcend and navigate a pretty tough road at times in her childhood,” Ms. Collins said. “There was a kindness that she retained which was important to us. That seemed to come across in her.”
In 2012 the scholarship was awarded to Ronald Aucapina, whose teachers and neighbors spoke so beautifully about him, Ms. Collins said. “While other children had cellphones and other typical things, he never really had the opportunity to have [them] but he saw the benefit of not having those things,” she said. “He had the goal of becoming a doctor. We thought he was really special.”
The following year, Kendra Weatherell wrote a “beautiful essay” about going to Ireland to take care of her ill grandmother as her parents were working and unable to help. Academically, she was not the most obvious candidate, Ms. Collins said. “She was just able to communicate so much empathy and kindness and that’s so important.” This April, Kendra came back to Sag Harbor to run in the Katy’s Courage 5k. “It wasn’t lost on her,” Ms. Collins said. “She wanted to support us the way that we had supported her.”
And this year, Nell Dobbs’s name was added to the list of the scholarship winners. The recent graduate “has done a lot of work in the arts,” Ms. Collins said. Nell was involved in creating a theater program and was honored at the Parrish Museum’s Student Exhibition this April. “And she had her own struggles,” Ms. Collins said. “She went into health classes and spoke to kids about her experiences. We thought she showed a lot of courage.” Nell is heading off to FIT in the fall.