SHERIDAN — Dick Moline had an idea about two decades ago to help local students further their education.
Moline, currently a trustee at the Sheridan Veterans of Foreign Wars Roy Eaton Post 1560, was post quartermaster when he came up with the idea for a college scholarship for Sheridan High School graduating seniors.
“I’m an advocate of community and youth activities,” Moline said.
After Moline presented his proposal, the rest of the VFW members quickly agreed to a scholarship that works at any accredited university, college, junior college and trade school.
The one-time, one-year scholarship is paid out in a check from the VFW to the college. It began as an award of $500 and has increased over time, currently standing at $800.
The VFW offers a few other academic scholarships, including Voice of Democracy for high-schoolers and Patriot’s Pen for middle-schoolers. Those two are given out nationally, however, while the Project Graduation scholarship is the only VFW scholarship specifically designated for local students.
Moline knows firsthand the importance of scholarships. He won the Voice of Democracy scholarship in 1960 and wanted to contribute an additional option for Sheridan high-schoolers heading to college.
SHS graduate Drew Mavrakis officially received the scholarship July 5 at the regular VFW board meeting. He will attend the University of Wyoming in the fall to study kinesiology.
Mavrakis plans to attend physical therapy school for two years after that and eventually become a general physical therapist.
Mavrakis won the $800 scholarship in a slightly unusual fashion around 3 a.m. during the 23rd annual Sheridan Project Graduation event May 27, the night of Sheridan High School graduation.
His name was randomly chosen out of all the students who attended Project Graduation in the Sheridan Junior High School Early Building.
A sophomore anatomy class piqued the recent graduate’s interest. Mavrakis said the class was enjoyable and appealed to him.
“The way everything works in the body is interesting to me,” Mavrakis said. “I liked doing it … Everything made sense, so I figured this is something I could probably do.”
The $800 scholarship won’t make a huge difference, but with post-secondary education costs getting higher every year, it eases the financial burden.
“It’s really generous of them,” Drew’s mother Jenna Mavrakis said. “Every little bit helps. It means a lot to our family.”
Many former winners of the VFW scholarship have attended Sheridan College and the University of Wyoming, like Mavrakis. However, because it comes with no strings attached and can be applied at any school, winners have also attended Colorado State, Gonzaga University, Montana State, Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Portland State and the University of North Carolina-Asheville.
The first Project Graduation — a program in high schools around the country that hosts supervised, drug and alcohol-free activities after graduation — in Sheridan occurred in 1996, and the VFW awarded its scholarship shortly after. Many local businesses donate to the event, and other giveaways include $1,000 in cash, an iPad and a car.
Moline hatched the plan for a scholarship several years before Drew Mavrakis was born, but his idea has lived on and helped nearly two dozen Sheridan students continue their schooling.