The late Heather Schultz loved not only her own children, but the children she taught for years as an Ohio County Schools teacher.
“Anyone who knew her, she was just that shining light of joy and kindness and happiness,” said Raquel McLeod, the school district’s student services director.
After Schultz died of breast cancer in 2019 at age 42, McLeod and other friends and loved ones came together last year to create the Heather Schultz Memorial Scholarship. Now in its second year, the scholarship has been able to expand in multiple ways to not only help future college students but children in immediate need.
Two $500 scholarships were awarded last year to Andrew Shelek and Lydia Kellas. McLeod said the scholarship committee looks for students who had Schultz as a teacher, but also looks for students going into education or another field that helps children.
“Heather did so much to help her students and others in need,” McLeod said. “Being able to provide these scholarships is our way of honoring her and keeping her memory alive. These kids are going to do great things to help children, just like Heather did. So it’s rewarding for all of us to be able to be part of it.”
The committee — made up of McLeod, Schultz’s husband Bruce Schultz, Ohio County teacher Suzy Miller, longtime friend Allisha Lash and Anita Shelek, who joined the group this year — put together several fundraisers to bolster scholarship funds. It sold t-shirts, some with a superhero theme — “We called her our superhero, our Wonder Woman,” McLeod said — and some with a theme of sunflowers, her favorite. The school district held “pink-outs,” where people donated to wear pink on a certain day.
The committee also put out a Super Bowl board and was able to fill two boards to raise funds. McLeod said the fundraising didn’t always need a theme or an event. Sometimes people just were willing to aid the cause.
“I had just put out one day that if 100 of my friends gave $5 in Heather’s memory, we can sponsor one scholarship,” McLeod said. “And within 24 hours, I had that.”
Fundraising has been successful enough that, on May 21, the committee will name three scholarship winners. It also has been able to help the family of one of Schultz’s former students. After their mother had died, the committee bought food and clothing for them.
“We’re helping the future through scholarships,” McLeod said, “but we’re also helping the here and now when we have a family facing a crisis or a traumatic event.”
McLeod said the committee wants to expand its fundraising even further, adding a steak fry when COVID-19 restrictions allow it. That the scholarship has been able to grow so quickly, McLeod said, is a testament to the impact Schultz made on her students and their families.
“It just shows how well respected and loved Heather was,” McLeod said. “She was genuine. She was genuine in her love for her students and the kids knew that and the parents knew that. Being able to expand this scholarship shows she’ll have a lifetime effect on everyone.
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