MENDOCINO Co., 6/10/20 — A scholarship has been started for students of color graduating in Willits High School’s Class of 2020, and fundraising is underway at this GoFundMe site. Willits residents Holli and Noel Woodhouse started the fund, saying they hope to give several seniors a little help as they graduate into “an uncertain landscape” defined by a global pandemic, a crumbling economy, and systemic inequalities.
For the centerpiece of the fundraising drive, Noel Woodhouse will bike from Willits High to the University of California, Davis to help raise funds for the scholarships. He’s set to begin June 11.
Those interested can donate to the fundraiser.
Here’s the full message from Holli and Noel Woodhouse:
We, Holli and Noel Woodhouse, are organizing a scholarship fund for at least one graduating senior from Willits High School’s Class of 2020. Our goal is to raise $1000 for a deserving young person of color, with the hope that we can double that amount for a second scholarship. Noel will be riding his bicycle from WHS to UC Davis via the Mendocino National Forest to raise funds for these scholarships (see details below).
This scholarship money will go to members of historically disenfranchised communities who continue to experience social and economic inequities in this country. We are choosing to present these scholarships to people of color because we recognize their value as the core of our own local community and as human beings. This is a nation built on the systematic exclusion and suppression of communities of color and we want to work on dismantling that. We hope that these scholarships are able to benefit one or two WHS seniors who have worked very hard for their accomplishments and who have missed out on many special events and moments amid the Coronavirus crisis.
To Donate: Visit gofundme.com/f/WHS-POC-Scholarship
To Nominate a Senior: Send a detailed paragraph to [email protected] explaining who your nominee is and why you are nominating them. Please include the name, phone number, and email address of yourself and the nominee. You may also send a direct message with this information to Noel or Holli via Instagram or Facebook.
The money we raise is intended as a “no strings attached” scholarship, meaning the recipients are free to use the money in any way that will benefit them, and it does not have to go toward higher education.
To Follow the Ride: Noel’s bike trip will begin on Thursday, June 11th; we will continue to post updates and information on his progress throughout the ride. You can follow Noel on Instagram and Facebook: @noelwoodhouse
A message from Noel:
Twenty-one years ago, I graduated from Willits High School and, buoyed by my white privilege, a booming economy, reasonable tuition fees, easily accessible financial aid, high-paying summer job as a construction worker, and some truly amazing local scholarships, I headed off to UC Davis. Now, I am riding my bike from WHS to UCD the long way around, up and over one of my favorite places—the Mendocino National Forest. By publicizing the ride, I intend to raise money for at least one scholarship for a graduating person of color from the Willits High School Class of 2020.
On March 16th of this year, over 100 seniors at WHS were informed not to come into school that day nor for the foreseeable future due to the shelter-in-place order relating to COVID-19.
You could probably pinpoint March 16th, 1999 as the beginning of all the fun for me and my friends from the class of ’99. The class workload began to lighten. The weather just got nicer and nicer. I enjoyed every moment of a very successful WHS tennis season, a team built by and jam-packed with my closest friends. I ditched class and drove out to the river a couple of afternoons to cool off. I took a pretty girl to prom. I stood up on the stage of the WHS auditorium and said a few words of appreciation for my soccer teammates, friends, and family at ‘Senior Sob Night.’ Daily, I laughed ‘til I cried just sitting in the quad or hanging out by the lockers with my friends. I nervously interviewed for, then received multiple generous scholarships from our community. At graduation, in front of a huge crowd, my name and accomplishments were read and I walked across the grass of the field I had played so many memorable soccer games on.
Obviously, the WHS Class of 2020 and those of so many other high schools were quite randomly robbed of those opportunities and memories. By the time they had adjusted to ‘distance learning’ and worked their asses off under tough circumstances to insure they would have the chance to partake in some modified approximation of a graduation ceremony, their celebration was (rightfully) overshadowed by a country on fire, a country, once again, fed up and infuriated by a long and ugly history of racism and the ongoing destruction of black and brown bodies.
I love Willits. And I also recognize that racism lives here. We, mercifully, don’t see it expressed as brutality and murder at the hands of the police. It expresses itself, more subtly, but still very clearly, in our neighborhoods and local institutions. I hear racist words and ideas regurgitated out of the mouths of some of my students every day. Much of my time as a teacher is spent simply calling out this type of language, correcting it, and keeping that conversation happening all semester long and beyond. I’ve definitely seen bolder and more open displays of racism in our town in the last few years and I know many others have experienced it firsthand.
The graduating seniors from the Class of 2020, with all their individual hopes and plans, step out into a very uncertain landscape. Going straight to a 4-year university isn’t the no-brainer it once was, and really seems more like a miracle for those able to take that path. What will college even look like this fall amidst a global pandemic? What sort of job opportunities will exist in this crumbling economy? And, as a black or brown person stepping out into a racist society that has been emboldened by leadership, what dangers await?
With all that said, ultimately I don’t worry about these kids. Because I know them. I coached them. I taught them. Under normal circumstances I see them and share laughs with them every day. They are strong. They are smart. They shrug off hardships and take any opportunity to laugh. Their eyes are wide open to the world around them and they are not afraid. They will thrive. They will forge ahead and craft a better future. This scholarship is just intended to give them a little boost in doing so.
Thank you for your support!
What is the precise definition of “student of color” to apply for this scholarship?
If a student has parents of different races or ethnicity, i.e. one parent is white and the other is not, does the student qualify? Is one grandparent of color sufficient? How about one 1,024th like Elizabeth Warren? Or maybe “one drop of blood” from an ancestor “of color” like in the Ku Klux Klan’s South? How about a student who self-identifies as “of color”? Are all white students automatically disqualified because of the white “color” of their skin?
To require that a student be “of color” in order to qualify for this scholarship is itself racist.
In America we do not judge people — or award scholarships — based on the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Right?
For the Willits School District to participate in presentation of a scholarship based on race or color would be a violation of the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Law of 1966. The School District’s attorney should advise the Willits School Board to have no participation in awarding any scholarship award based on race or skin color.