Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013, 10:48 am

Four students awarded Thoms Family Above and Beyond Scholarship

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By Nicole Lauer, nicolellauer@gmail.com

A Rock Island High School senior has earned $5,000 towards her college education for implementing a student art fair and after-school art club for junior high and high school students.

Kayla Jackson was named the top winner of the Thoms Family Above and Beyond Scholarship. She and the other scholarship finalists were recognized Tuesday (Jan. 22) at the Rock Island-Milan school board meeting.

The scholarship recipients began implementing projects during their junior year in order to be considered for the Thoms scholarship. Ms. Jackson said her idea was aimed at offering art to students who, like herself, would be otherwise unable to fit in into their schedules.

"When I was deciding I was looking at things in my life that meant a lot to me and ways I could give back. I thought about how passionate I was about art, but I have never been able to do much with it because I was already involved in band and all the AP (advanced placement) classes.

"I thought of all the other students and made it my goal to reach out to them."

Before Ms. Jackson could proceed with that goal, she said she needed to raise funds. This led her to hold a student art show on Nov. 3 that raised $200. She said the Rock Island Art Guild provided funding so that she could award two $50 prizes to students who entered artwork into the show.

Ms. Jackson said about 10 junior high students attended the first after-school art lesson that focused on water colors. The second meeting, aimed at high school students, was on drawing. Ms. Jackson said three art teachers have volunteered their time to alternate leading the lessons that are held every Wednesday.

Ms. Jackson, who plans to attend Augustana College next year and has future plans to attend the University of Illinois to pursue a veterinary career, said she would not have been able to achieve her goals without all those who assisted her.

"Thank you to everybody that helped me out," she said. "I couldn't have done it without all the support I had."

The other finalists who received $500 scholarship awards for their efforts are:

-- Kelly Bishop for her program aimed at upper-grade school students to reduce bullying and increase inclusiveness.

-- Lizandra Gomez-Ramirez for her project that helped the refugee population within the school district. Her program created awareness and promoted understanding among students, teachers and administrators.

-- DeAuna Ivy for her her project that helped organize structured support and create peer encouragement to prevent struggling students from dropping out and help them raise their grades.

For more information on the Thoms Family Foundation, please contact Thomas W. Thoms at 309-269-0398.