If you asked long-time educator Evelyn Hanshaw to describe her ideal student, she probably wouldn’t just pick someone with straight-As and perfect attendance. Resilience, leadership and perseverance mattered most to her, especially at the middle school named after her in south Modesto.
“Mrs. Hanshaw was mesmerized by the resilience of the students in her school,” said Evelyn Hanshaw Middle School’s first principal, Charles Vidal. “It took more than a GPA to break out of the challenges and barriers confronting you each day living in south Modesto. It took character.”
Notorious for its crime and poverty, south Modesto can be a difficult environment for children to grow up – a place where they often end up in gangs or dropping out of school. Evelyn Hanshaw Middle School became a haven of safety and hope for many of them. Evelyn Hanshaw herself became their matriarch.
When Evelyn passed away in 2005, Charles – who is also the executor of her estate – established a scholarship fund with money Evelyn had bequeathed to award to deserving graduates of her namesake school to go to college. Since she had no children of her own, these students became her children and her bequest was, in a way, her college savings account for them.
“The students at Hanshaw Middle School are smart – and not just book smart – street smart,” Charles said. “They have extracted an intelligence from the challenges and circumstances they were born into and, as Mrs. Hanshaw described to me, with a little financial boost can go the distance.”
For the past ten years, that financial boost has added up to more than $100,000 to 118 students to attend colleges and universities, including Stanislaus State, Modesto Junior College and UC Merced.
Like the Evelyn Hanshaw Scholarship Fund, Stanislaus Futures recognizes students’ challenges and resilience, not just their grades like most traditional scholarships. While students with high achievement deserve recognition for their success, merit-based scholarships may miss an opportunity to provide support to low-income students who have the potential and drive to succeed in college, but lack the means.
As the Evelyn Hanshaw scholars grow in number and experience, Charles asks for one favor in return – to go back to their alma mater as role models for younger generations living in south Modesto and serve as a reminder that resilience can lead to a boundless future.