Holland High Class of 1966 Promise Scholarship
In 2016, the Holland High School Class of 1966 was planning their 50th reunion. At the same time, Holland Early College, a program of Holland High School which allows students to obtain both a high school diploma and an associate degree, had recently been established. To give back to their alma mater, the class of 1966 decided on a scholarship to support Holland Early College students who elected to continue their education at a four-year college.
They announced the scholarship at their reunion and received commitments from over 40 classmates that evening, with more contributing in the weeks and months following. Creating this base of support was made easier thanks to the diligent work of Sally Lamberts Myrick, a fellow class of 1966 graduate who maintained a database of names and contact information through the years.
While this initial scholarship was well-received, after five years there were concerns about the sustainability of the fund and outreach to the recipients. Former classmates Donna Brooks, Jim Stroop, and Howard Veneklasen believed there was a better way to invest the Class of 1966’s charitable gifts. Through existing connections with the Community Foundation, they were familiar with the Holland/Zeeland Promise program, an academic scholarship for talented local students who are often the first in their families to attend college.
“We thought it would be nice to continue giving back to our alma mater by creating a scholarship specifically for a Promise student graduating from Holland Public Schools,” Donna said. “The Community Foundation already has their feet on the ground providing wise fiscal stewardship, academic support, and side-by-side services for the students through the Promise program. They cover the details that were challenges with our initial scholarship.”
“We can salute our alma mater, send a message to the community that we care about educational opportunities, and solidify the perception of our classmates that this is going to be a forever gift.”
– Donna Brooks, HOward Veneklasen,
and Jim stroop
Consequently, the HHS Class of 1966 partnered with CFHZ in November 2021 to establish The Holland High School Class of 1966 Promise Scholarship, an endowed scholarship fund. “We can achieve so many things at the same time by working with the Foundation,” said Howard. “We can salute our alma mater, send a message to the community that we care about educational opportunities, and solidify the perception of our classmates that this is going to be a ‘forever’ gift.”
“The sustainability of the fund was important,” said Donna. “This permanent fund helps us to create a lasting legacy on behalf of our graduating class.” Along with a legacy, the Class of ’66 was also hoping to create a ripple effect of philanthropy. Jim sees that taking place as other Holland High graduates will now have the opportunity to obtain a four-year degree. “I was able to attend college,” he said. “But I would never have finished without assistance from scholarships. For me, this fund is about paying it forward for individual students and the community at-large. It’s a full circle moment.”
Beyond paying it forward for the community, Donna, Jim, and Howard hope that the Holland High School Class of 1966 Promise Scholarship serves as an inspiration for other classes to step forward and deepen their impact. “That’s our challenge to younger graduating classes,” Howard said. “Start a fund and engage earlier so your funds can continue to grow exponentially. Imagine the collective impact we could have for the Promise program if other classes ran with this idea as well. It’s never too early to start.”