ABOUT THE WEST MARIN SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
The West Marin Scholarship Program (formerly known as the Inverness Garden Scholarship Fund) was established to make college affordable for academically deserving, motivated students with financial need who reside in coastal West Marin. The program’s goal is to lessen the heavy debt burden that often accompanies a college degree.
- HISTORY OF THE WMSP
Formerly the Inverness Garden Club Scholarship Fund, the West Marin Scholarship Program is a new name for the same organization. The IGC Scholarship Fund has given scholarships to local college bound students for over 50 years. In 1961 the first scholarship, a small amount, was given to one student from West Marin to help with college expenses. One scholarship was given yearly for 18 years. After that, the number of students receiving scholarships began to increase and kept increasing. Along the way we started to give scholarships to continuing scholars who could reapply for scholarships for up to 4 years of college. Currently, approximately 75 to 85 students, in their first to fourth years of college, have received scholarships every year.
When the Scholarship Fund was part of the Inverness Garden Club there was a Scholarship Committee consisting of Garden Club members who raised money, reviewed scholarship applications, and awarded scholarships. Committee members also monitored and mentored the scholars throughout their college years.
As the Fund grew and the number of scholars increased, the Inverness Garden Club decided that the Scholarship Fund should become a separate organization. The Inverness Garden Club and the Scholarship Fund became individual 501(c)3 organizations in 2018. In 2021 the Scholarship Fund decided to change its name to the West Marin Scholarship Program in order to differentiate itself from the Inverness Garden Club. The new name helps clarify that the scholarships are offered exclusively to students who live in the Coastal West Marin area. It also helps communicate that in addition to giving scholarships, the program focuses on mentoring the scholars and it has also become a resource to the educational community of West Marin.
The mission of the West Marin Scholarship Program remains the same – to raise funds to enable local college bound students to afford college and to support those students in other ways to help them successfully complete their higher education.
We are incredibly grateful to the Inverness Garden Club for doing so much to grow this organization, and we deeply appreciate the Scholarship Committee members who worked so hard over many years to create and sustain something that makes a huge difference in the lives of our local youth. In addition, we are gratified that so many members of our West Marin community support our scholars at all levels – as volunteers and as donors. Our donor list is varied and represents the diversity of the population in West Marin and beyond. We all believe in the importance of a college education and affordable access to the opportunities that higher education provides. The West Marin Scholarship Program plans to continue facilitating futures with the support and involvement of our West Marin community.
- HOW WE SELECT OUR SCHOLARS
The purpose of the WMSP scholarships is to address the inequity of access to higher education among college bound West Marin students. Our scholars’ parents are ranchers, ranch workers, artists, teachers, office workers, housecleaners, landscapers, health workers, entrepreneurs, etc. and they represent the diversity that is the community of residents in West Marin. Our scholars would have to take out large loans (if they qualify), and/or work many hours while attending college in order to afford higher education. With our scholarships they can attend college without accumulating a huge debt, can work fewer hours, and are able to focus on their college education and be more likely to successfully graduate from college.
To qualify for consideration for a scholarship, applicants must live in the following Coastal West Marin communities: Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Olema, Inverness, Point Reyes Station, Nicasio, Marshall, Tomales, or Dillon Beach, and places in between, or be a student at or graduate of Tomales High School. New college applicants must be earning at least a 2.7 GPA in high school and must demonstrate financial need. Applicants complete a lengthy application which includes essays, recommendations, transcripts, and other information. Not all our scholars travel the traditional academic path.
We also award scholarships to some students who do not go to college right after high school. These students are ready to pursue a college education when they’re older. We know that not everyone is ready for college when they’re 18 years old, and some students might need to work before they continue their education.
Our scholars attend 2-year and 4-year colleges. We encourage consideration of a 2-year college if the program is the right match for a particular scholar or is a good way to transition later to a 4-year college. Some students find it’s easier to adjust to higher education if they attend a 2- year college right out of high school. We also support scholars who choose to pursue a certificate or vocational program in a nonprofit institution. What matters is that they each achieve higher education and find a career that interests and makes sense for them. Our applicants for scholarships demonstrate a desire to continue their education, explore options, and create opportunities for themselves. The Scholarship Program allows them to not settle for less when they can afford to do more.
- HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS
When we review applications for scholarships, we take many factors into consideration, including understanding each applicant’s unique circumstances. Applicants who we’ve decided to offer a scholarship to are notified in time for them to take the scholarship into consideration when they decide which college they will attend.
We do not put restrictions on how a scholar uses the scholarship. It can be for tuition or other expenses related to college. We do require that they maintain a certain minimum GPA and take at least 12 units each grading period in order to receive their full scholarship. At the start of their college experience, each scholar is introduced to their Mentor – a WMSP board member who will be their ongoing point person who will monitor their academic progress and be available to talk, help solve problems, advocate, and assist with finding resources. The Mentors aren’t just for helping with challenges – they also celebrate and share with us all when the scholars are doing well and feeling good about their achievements. Our scholars have told us that this attention makes a huge difference, and they appreciate being able to turn to us.
We know that going to college is a huge adjustment for many of our scholars. New scholars are watched carefully. If a scholar stumbles, depending on the circumstances, and doesn’t meet our academic requirements, we’ll seek to understand what happened and we try to help. The scholars know we care about them and can recommend resources and ways to push through difficulties. Some of them have no one else to turn to.
Scholars must reapply each year to renew their scholarship for up to 4 years and they need to continue to meet our academic requirements in order to continue receiving their scholarships. It is so rewarding to see these students figure out what they want to major in, to start to think about their futures, to realize they will achieve their goals of being college graduates.
Our scholars are incredibly grateful to their West Marin communities who contribute to their futures. Knowing that their community cares about and believes in them helps them believe in themselves. They often tell us that the WMSP scholarships and mentoring motivate them to do well in college. They don’t want to let us down. It’s such an immediate and far-reaching difference we are all working together to achieve.
“My parents came to America from Mexico and have worked hard so that my siblings and I could go to school and do well in life. I am so grateful for the help you are giving me.”