Birch Bay chamber launches young adult program
The Birch Bay chamber announced the inception of a new scholarship and outreach program benefitting Blaine high school students, during a packed chamber meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The Student Ambassador Committee (SAC) will provide three scholarships to students in the amounts of $1,000, $500 and $250, and will allow students to experience a variety of work environments through the help of local businesses. �We have a dream for our community and we really feel that that dream is becoming reality,� said chamber vice-president Mike Harward, noting the lack of opportunities for youth in Birch Bay and Blaine. �What�s the work of a soul? What�s the price you can pay? What�s the dollar figure you can put on youth?�
There is no price, he said, but the creation of SAC will allow local youth to learn, grow, and become community builders. �Almost a junior chamber of commerce,� he said. �Whatever your background is, we want our young people to learn about these opportunities.�
�The Student Ambassador Committee is an outreach program established by the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce to promote the participation of young adults in their community; to empower their growth as leaders by learning the value of responsibility; and to encourage their continued education, supported by mentoring programs, special presentations by business leaders, and interaction with chamber members,� SAC�s vision statement states, as read by Blaine senior Matt Anderson at the meeting.
In addition to Anderson, junior Kaylyn Bird and junior Jennifer Pike joined Harward in announcing SAC�s vision statement. �They�re skipping school today,� Harward said, �but we do have the high school principal here.� Senior Amber Rucker is also one of SAC�s first members, but was working that afternoon and was unable to make the meeting.
Criteria for SAC membership, chamber president Nick Jerns said, was the student must be a resident of the Blaine school district between the ages of 14 and 18, be alcohol and drug free, and are required to attend one SAC meeting per month.
Scholarships, Jerns said, �are labor intensive, but well worth it.� The scholarships will go to seniors who have at least a 2.5 grade point average, have performed 90 hours of community service, and have a total of four letters of recommendation. The applicant is also required to write a 350-word essay describing what he or she has learned from the community. Lastly, the total household income of the applicant should not exceed $60,000.
The budget for the program will be partly funded through grants and non-profit county organizations.
�It really is starting to have a ripple effect,� Jerns said. �Mentors can be members (of the chamber) and non-members. I really hope a lot of you will agree to be mentors as well.� Blaine superintendent Dr. Mary Lynne Derrington said it was an exciting moment between the school and the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, to see it all come together. In her 25 years in education, she said she had never seen such a show of support between community businesses and the school.
Blaine high school principal Dan Newell echoed her statement. This was the first time in his 27 years in education that a group had come to him offering this kind of help to students, and he said �of course we are very, very supportive.�
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo also attended the meeting, and said this was �one of the neatest� programs he had ever heard of, especially for those students deemed average.
�I can tell you how many of those kids would sit in those classes for days and days, years and years, with almost no hope,� Elfo said. �This is a program you can all be proud of.�
The first SAC meeting will be held at the Birch Bay fire station on Birch Bay - Lynden Road on Monday, February 2 at 6:30 p.m.