ST. GEORGE — The Dixie Elks Lodge #1743 handed out just over $38,000 in scholarships and awarded 26 students with the honor of Student of the Year at their annual “Youth Awards Banquet” Monday evening.
The celebratory evening recognized students from 13 high schools throughout Washington and Kane counties as well as Fredonia, Arizona, that fall under the lodge’s jurisdiction.
For the Student of the Year awards, one boy and one girl from each of the high schools was chosen by their teachers or counselors to receive the recognition, said Rebecca Yager, chair of youth activities and scholarships.
Each of the students received a monetary gift as well as a certificate and goody bag for their achievements.
In addition to the Student of the Year awards, Monday’s banquet awarded several students scholarships ranging from $500 to over $4,000. Most of the scholarships awarded were open to seniors at all 13 of the high schools, said Yager.
Part of the stated mission of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks is to serve the people and the community in which they live. The Elks are champions of veterans, patriotic and community-minded programs and of course, education. The national group awards approximately $30 million a year in scholarships.
In September of each new school year, Yager visits all of the schools in her jurisdiction and discusses the various scholarships available to the seniors, she said.
It is a job Yager said she loves doing.
“Sometimes you see some of the bad things going on with kids these days and you see it on the news,” Yager said, “and then you go these schools and you see these kids who are passionate about education … it just makes you feel good that the younger people of this country are doing a lot better than a lot of people think they are.”
Yager said she is honored to have the position she does because she gets to help students gain access to scholarships they might not have otherwise been able to get.
While most of the scholarships awarded at Monday’s banquet were available to all seniors, a few were open only to children or grandchildren of Elks members in good standing, including the prestigious Legacy Scholarship Award.
Only three students from throughout Utah are awarded the Legacy Scholarship each year. In 2016, Ivins resident and former Tuacahn High School student Lorena DeLong received the award. DeLong is currently attending Dixie State University. She attended the banquet as a guest speaker.
DeLong has multiple Elks members in her family and said she has fond memories of “growing up” at the Dixie Elks Lodge, including holding Girl Scout meetings and meeting the Easter Bunny at the lodge.
DeLong gave advice to the graduating seniors who attended on how to make the jump from high school to higher education and thanked the Elks for helping her achieve her education goals.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Washington County School District Executive Director of Student Learning Bob Sonju.
In his remarks Sonju gave two pieces of advice to the students in attendance.
Sonju repeated the advice Joe Maddon, manager of the 2016 World Series of Baseball champion Chicago Cubs, gave to his team.
“Be uncomfortable,” Sonju said.
Growth comes from being uncomfortable, Sonju said.
The second piece of advice Sonju gave the students was to start right now in pursuing their dreams and to not let fear make them freeze.
In total, the Dixie Elks awarded $38,200 in scholarships Monday evening.
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