The YWCA Billings 2014 Salute to Student Scholarship programs has awarded five women students $1,500 scholarships to help further their education at colleges or universities.
This year’s Salute to Student recipients are Daysi Bellota, Meghan Combs, Jessica Dutton, Rebecca Levandanski and Jennifer Zundel.
Donors of the $1,500 scholarships include the L.P. & Teresa Anderson Family Foundation (Marilynn Anderson and Patty Brookman, fund Advisers), the Margaret Ping Past YWCA Salute to Women Honoree Endowed Scholarship, Wells Fargo, Sandy R. Wong of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and this year for the first time, the Jessica French Stephenson Memorial Fund.
Ms. Stephenson would have been 26 this month and had plans to continue her education in the fall, but her life ended on Dec. 21, 2013. She was a certified nursing assistant with St. Vincent Healthcare and at St. John’s Lutheran Home, where she worked for five years on the dementia floor.
On the evening of her death, she was helping a friend in a crisis in connection with a domestic violence incident. Her family designated YWCA Gateway as the recipient of memorial funds in her honor. Gateway is YWCA’s program that assists women and children who are victims of violence—a sad but fitting connection.
Through the generosity of Jessi’s two extended families, her colleagues and her many, many friends, Jessi’s memorial fund quickly grew to more than $3,000 dollars. And thus, YWCA proposed that a new scholarship be dedicated in Jessi’s honor with the money currently in the fund designated for scholarships this year and next. As more money flows in from people remembering her on her birthday and the anniversary of her loss, those contributions will be added to the reserve to fund future years’ scholarships.
YWCA, located at 909 Wyoming Avenue in Billings, is a 107-year old organization that delivers daily on its mission to save, change, and improve the lives of women and children, and to empower women. Its programs include the Gateway Shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, the Child Center with school readiness curriculum, and the Employment & Training Center which helps unemployed and underemployed people find meaningful jobs so they can achieve economic independence.