July 23, 2024

Rotary career and tech scholarships support students’ professional ambitions

Rotary Scholarships students
Ashland High School students celebrate winning career and technical education scholarships from Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs at Mountain Avenue Theater. From left are Roxie Broesamle (who will study illustration), Taj Farnbach (massage therapy), Megan Pickett (cosmetology), Anthony Virga (auto mechanics), and Ben Block (nursing). Not pictured are Esme Rodas (ultrasound technology) and Sunny Nauth (tattoos and body art). Andi Shapiro photo
June 7, 2023

Club awards $28,000 to seven Ashland High School students

By Jim Flint for

Rotary Club of Ashland Lithia Springs lives up to its motto, “Kids First.” On June 1, it awarded $28,000 in Career and Technical Education scholarships to Ashland High School students.

The sum is part of more than $800,000 the Ashland club has raised since its initial Kids First CrabFest 24 years ago to fund scholarships, youth programs and community betterment — more than two dozen programs in all.

Seven AHS students are this year’s recipients of CTE scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 each.

Ben Block plans to become a registered nurse. He will study kinesiology at Oregon State University while dual enrolled at Linn Benton Lincoln Educational Service District to get his nursing prerequisites. He hopes to work as a traveling nurse and later as a trauma nurse.

Esme Rodas wants to be an ultrasound technician. She will live at home while studying at Rogue Community College before transferring to Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls for its diagnostic imaging program. She wants to get a job in Medford after graduation.

Sunny Nauth plans to get an associate’s degree in art at RCC, after which he hopes to attend Blue Steel Tattoo Institute in Medford to become a certified body arts practitioner.

RoxieBroesamle wants to be an illustrator. She plans to attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She is impressed with the school’s focus on networking to help grads find jobs.

Anthony Virga plans a career as an auto mechanic. He will attend WyoTech in Laramie, Wyoming, where he hopes to earn 20 certificates. His goal is to have his own company, focused on high-performance cars. Future classes in business management are also in his plans.

Taj Farnbach plans to become a massage therapist. He will live with his mother while attending a massage school in California that also offers classes in business management. He hopes to own his own business after working for others.

Megan Pickett will study cosmetology at Flair Beauty College in Santa Clarita, California. She’s done considerable research to make sure it’s a good fit for her, and plans to stay with an aunt and uncle while attending the school.

All the recipients expressed gratitude to Rotary for supporting their career goals.

“Winning the scholarship means I will have more money to help pay off my tuition,” saidBroesamle. “I am incredibly grateful. I was born in a large family that unfortunately isn’t able to give me much financial support.”

She added, “I plan on starting a business selling stickers online and in stores, using my illustrative skills. I also hope to freelance for bigger companies and possibly be hired as an illustrator.”

Pickett, another recipient, said she was “absolutely stoked” when she got the news.

“It means a lot to me because it lets me attend (my preferred) school to follow my dreams,” she said. “After I become a cosmetologist, I hope one day to do makeup and hair for actors on movie sets.”

Virga says winning the scholarship reduced the stress he and his parents were feeling about financing his post-high school education.

“My long-term goal is to build race cars,” he said. “I want to open my own performance shop.”

CTE is designed to equip students with both real-world skills and college credit when they’re still in high school. The RCALS scholarships program focuses on students who are pursuing careers that often don’t offer financial aid opportunities. The grants help them pay for their postsecondary education programs.

“Applicants must be pursuing a CTE career,” said Adrienne Simmons, 2023 scholarship committee chair. “Examples include firefighter, emergency medical technician, forestry, nursing, culinary arts and auto mechanics. We look for students who have taken classes or found other avenues to learn about their chosen career paths. Financial need determines the amount of the scholarship.”

The pandemic slowed the club’s fundraising efforts a bit. But after a three-year absence, the CrabFest was reinstated in 2023, a rebuilding year for RCALS’s community support programs.

“We were so impressed with all of our recipients this year,” Simmons said. “The cost of higher education can put it out of reach for many families. These students are doing what is necessary to make it as affordable as possible.”

Many recipients, for instance, are fulfilling prerequisites through community college courses, and saving money by living at home or with family members who live near the school they plan to attend.

“Many are working very long hours after school to help pay for their education,” Simmons said.
RCALS president-elect and a club founder Michael Hansen says CTE has been an evolution for him, personally. He and his wife guided their son, Jesse, down the traditional college degree path, but their son’s passion for the culinary arts eventually took hold.

They told him they would consider financially supporting his going to culinary school after he completed his bachelor’s degree, but after more than five years pursuing the coveted degree, Jesse told them he was tired of wasting the money they had saved for him.

“We decided together that if he could work in a kitchen for a year and still say he was interested in culinary school, we would support his decision,” Hansen said.

A year later, after a successful internship in New Zealand, Jesse ended up attending and graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and working at the top of the “food chain” in the culinary world.

“This has made me realize how biased my thinking was about the path of success for our students. It has given me passion toward supporting programs like the CTE scholarships,” Hansen said.

RCALS member Andi Shapiro first learned about the club’s CTE scholarship program when mentoring students at AHS.

“I became very excited,” she said. So excited, she rejoined the club.

“Adrienne Simmons told me I had to be a Rotarian to work on the program,” Shapiro said. “I am so happy to be back at Rotary. Now I will be working with students to help make their dreams come true. What could be more rewarding?”

Jerry Kenefick, RCALS treasurer, is a proud supporter of CTE scholarships. One of his fondest memories associated with the program involves interviewing an AHS applicant who wanted to be a welder.

“He wouldn’t look me in the eye,” Kenefick recalled. “And he didn’t want to carry on a conversation. He showed me he barely had a C grade-point average and said he had few friends. We awarded him a scholarship.”

After he had been in the welding program for a year, the young man’s mother asked Kenefick, “What have you done to my son?” She said he was getting straight A’s, had more friends than he could handle, “and I can’t shut him up,” she told him.

Kenefick said he told her, “Well, we just gave him the opportunity to succeed and told him someone cared for him. He did the rest.”

To learn more about RCALS and its CTE scholarship program, go to

Reach writer Jim Flint at

June 8 update: Spelling of Roxie Broesamle’s name corrected.

Picture of Jim


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