By Mark Nicklawske

Recent changes to a longstanding Hills scholarship program now gives young people better access to funds designated for their future education interests.

The Hills Youth and Family Services modified application requirements earlier this year for its Endowment Fund. The program awards qualified young people scholarships of up to $2,000 three times a year.

Officials said the changes are designed to increase requests for financial help.  

“We’re hoping that we’ve made the application process much more broad and open,” said The Hills Youth and Family Services Director of Organizational Development Jessica Peterson. “We wanted to create an easier application process and we’re hoping that our alumn will takes us up on it.”

The Endowment Fund was established in 1990 and has awarded dozens of young people thousands of dollars in scholarship money over the years. But Peterson said the program was falling behind the times.

“Traditionally the Endowment Fund was used for post secondary higher education costs,” said Peterson. “But many of our students today just really aren’t tracking that way.”

Now in addition to providing college tuition relief, the Endowment Fund takes application requests for a wide variety of education, training and vocational paths. The fund will cover things like entrance exam or driver’s education fees, certification course tuition, entrepreneurial support and work tools like steel-toed shoes or nursing uniforms.

“If it’s a specific need like a laptop that will be used to further someone’s schooling, then that’s something that could get funded,” said Peterson. “Our alumni were starting to identify other needs after they left and so we revised the whole form to make it obvious what the money was for and how they could use it.”

Any young person that has been enrolled at Woodland HIlls, Cambia Hills or Neighborhood Youth Services is eligible to apply for an Endowment Fund scholarship. Applications are reviewed three times a year.

Peterson said a fitness certification course and social work credential fees were recent examples of unconventional Endowment Fund requests. She said the scholarship committee will consider any request that advances an individual’s education or career.

“We want to help our kids on a wider basis,” she said. “I’m really trying to change our language to say we have scholarships for whatever journey or pursuit they are on after high school.”

Of course, the Endowment Fund will continue to support a college education.

Many Hills young people are first generation college students who qualify for strong financial assistance packages, said Peterson. But while these students receive tuition relief, they often find it difficult to pay for things like books and technology.

“The fund is there to help kids and adults with things connected to school and professional development,” she said. “It will cover any costs related to the pursuit of excellence.”

The Endowment Fund has granted between $500 and $10,000 a year in scholarship support over the last 27 years. An individual can qualify for as much as $6,000 in financial assistance in one year. The fund is financed by The Hills donors and community members who support future youth success.

The Hills also administers the Johnson-Lundin Family Scholarship. The privately funded scholarship supports the scholastic achievement and exceptional qualities of a deserving current or former residential or day treatment program participant. The scholarship is a one-time award of $7,500 for educational costs at an accredited public or private Minnesota college.

Learn more about scholarship opportunities offered by The Hills Youth and Family Services.