SHERIDAN — Giving back to the community comes naturally for Jay and Sara McGinnis. When Jay McGinnis took a step back from his position with the Scott Foundation, members of the board awarded him a discretionary grant of $15,000 for 20 years of service on the foundation board.

With funds in hand, the McGinnises started a steering committee of Tongue River school district employees and Tongue River alumna in November 2017. From there, the steering committee drafted mission and value statements and bylaws for governance of a scholarship for Tongue River Valley students.

Big Horn established the Big Horn Education Fund in 1985, which awards scholarship funds to graduating seniors at Big Horn High School for the first year of college or technical school with an option to renew for a second year. The McGinnises felt Tongue River needed a scholarship similar to the Big Horn Education Fund. Jay McGinnis said he wanted to see a scholarship that reflected the values that inherently represented the Tongue River Valley.

“Now creating this opportunity for graduating seniors from Tongue River High School I think is just exceptional,” Scott Foundation director Jenny Craft said of the scholarship.

Steering committee members, with the direction of the McGinnises, established the mission statement to have the scholarship run on the community-driven legacy. The $15,000 start from the discretionary grant helped start the scholarship, but Jay McGinnis said he hopes to secure $100,000 to establish the scholarship as a permanent fund for the future. By securing $100,000, scholarships can be given with the interest earnings each year.

The steering committee sits $15,000 away from its goal. McGinnis said once word spread about the scholarship, alumni started “coming out of the woodwork.”

Craft said she hasn’t seen a scholarship develop like this in Sheridan County for quite some time. She said often people establish scholarships in memory of a student or family member who passed away.

“But this is really coming from Jay and Sara,” Craft said. “They initiated a lot of the work and did a lot of the outreach and making calls to other potential donors and philanthropists in the community.”

Steering committee members continue asking individuals to contribute $100 or more toward the fund. Craft said the opportunity presented by the McGinnis’s through this scholarship goes beyond giving back to students at Tongue River, where Sara McGinnis gave 25 years of service.

“It’s more investing in students for them to reach and obtain their goals with the hope or intent that someday they would give back to their community,” Craft said.

Tongue River Valley Community Center’s Erin Kilbride will serve as the “on the ground local” accepting fund donations and managing the finances. The steering committee anticipates awarding its first set of scholarships in 2018.