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Northwest Education Foundation to give student award for character, work ethic

Northwest Education Foundation to give student award for character, work ethic

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McGahans

James and Martha McGahan, two former Northwest High School teachers, pose for a photo outside their home in northwest Grand Island. The Northwest Education Foundation will give an award in their honor to a Northwest High School student who demonstrates good work ethic and character. (Independent/Austin Koeller)

Northwest High School seniors soon will be recognized for their efforts beyond academics thanks to a new award.

The Northwest Education Foundation recently created an endowment in honor of James and Martha McGahan, two longtime Northwest High School educators. Gian Baxter-Collins, executive director of the foundation, said the idea for the award came about after some foundation board members suggested it at a meeting.

“A few board members and I met with the McGahans to ask them if they would be comfortable and open to doing this. We had a pretty touching conversation on that,” Baxter-Collins said. “You cannot talk to a Northwest graduate who graduated before 2000 and not have the McGahans come up in the conversation. They are a staple to the high school. They both were at Northwest for so long, and every student was touched by one or both of them.”

Martha McGahan said she and her husband were “just heartfelt” that the foundation wanted to bestow this award in their honor. She said they both felt students should be recognized for their citizenship and what they do for others, rather than just their academics.

“These students would have the chance to earn an award on their own merits and not their academic performance,” Martha said. “Our sense is that it is not just the scholars who ought to be recognized for what they do for the school. There are people at all levels who come to school, are proud of the school, are nice kids who do things for other people and care about other people. They are just good citizens.”

In order to receive the award, James McGahan said, a Northwest student must be nominated by a Northwest staff member. This ensures that the student truly is deserving of the award.

“I would hope that it would not go to the star,” he said. “I hope it goes to somebody who works every bit as hard as the star, but didn’t have the level of talent that the star had. The stars are going to get taken care of and are going to get plenty of scholarships.”

Baxter-Collins said one thing that makes this new award unique is that it will not necessarily be awarded to someone who is going to college.

“They might be going on to taking over running the family farm or going into the military,” she said. “No matter what your choice is after high school, you still can be nominated for this.”

Baxter-Collins said the Northwest Education Foundation would “love to have this (award) start as soon as possible” but first wants to raise funds to make it sustainable.

The amount given out as part of the award each year will depend on the total funds raised.

The foundation will start sending letters seeking donations to two past Northwest High School classes on which it has the most alumni information, Baxter-Collins said.

“We will then be able to decide whether it is one or two students and how much per student,” she said. “We will be able to get some of those decisions made when we have a better idea of what we are working with financially.”

Baxter-Collins said the McGahans have donated funds to the foundation to establish the first funds for the award. She and the McGahans declined to disclose exactly how much was donated.

“These next few months might give us a read of what is going to happen with the response we get from this first mail-out,” Baxter-Collins said. “Then, we will know how much money we built with this first test run. We want to build it as large as we can.”

Those wishing to donate to the endowment can do so by calling Baxter-Collins at 308-385-6389, ext. 5122, or emailing her at gian.baxter-collins@ginorthwest.org.

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