More than 50 Mercer Island youngsters have benefited from the Nancy Schaps Memorial Grant over the last 25 years as Schaps’ name and caring nature continues to resonate throughout the Island community.
Schaps, who passed away from cancer in 1996, supported local children through the Mercer Island School District PTA and other volunteer services. Her family members, who still live on the Island, established the grant in her memory in 1996 and funded an endowment for the grant in 2010.
The grant award in the amount of up to $500 is presented to a local student in elementary through high school who has suffered the death of a parent, who has a parent with a terminal illness or who has a parent serving on active duty with the military. The grant can be used for lessons, a camp experience, a trip, sports equipment or a musical instrument.
Nancy’s stepdaughter Karen Schaps, an Islander Middle School sixth-grade math, science and health teacher, spoke of how the grant has impacted students’ lives: “It was so important to Nancy, my dad and the rest of the family to create a way to honor and support kids who have to experience the loss of a parent in their young life. Many in the community supported our family during Nancy’s illness and death and the scholarship is an enduring way to give back and make a difference for kids.”
PTA member Shannon Warburg can relate to what the grant applicants are experiencing and became involved as grant chair at the request of PTA vice presidents of programs, Stephanie Parmenter and Amy Richter. They reached out to Warburg after reading an article she penned about being a Gold Star daughter after her Navy pilot father was killed in active service when she was in fourth grade.
“I have a particular spot in my heart for children who lose their parents at a young age,” said Warburg, who had siblings deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
She said that it’s been a gratifying experience chairing the grant and she gains inspiration while interacting with the hard-working school district counselors, teachers and support networks like Youth and Family Services. They’ve all rallied around the students in and out of the classrooms, especially while pivoting during the pandemic and tackling remote and hybrid learning.
Warburg, who has a Mercer Island High School sophomore child and one who graduated in 2018, said it’s a gift to be in good company while keeping Schaps’ memory alive.
“(We’re also) reminded that while COVID has been challenging for a lot of people, there are members in our community that are experiencing even greater loss, and in some cases these are our youngest people,” she said. “So it’s an opportunity to remember that we as a community can do more and can serve as additional support to those students’ families and help them during this time.”
The grant application deadline is May 30. To nominate a student or for more information, visit http://www.miptacouncil.org/programs/nancy-schaps-memorial-grant/. Residents can also contribute to the grant fund at Nancy Schaps Memorial Grant, c/o Mercer Island PTA Council, Mercer Island School District, 4160 86th Ave. SE, Mercer Island, WA 98040.
“Since 1996, this grant has benefited the students of our Mercer Island School District family during times of loss, struggle, and the economic disruption that often comes with these difficult experiences. On top of such circumstances, over the last 12 months, students and families have faced additional challenges which illustrate the profound relevance and critical need for the Nancy Schaps Memorial Grant,” said PTA Council President Kristy Sieckhaus and her board members.
The PTA also offers the Reflections arts education program, MI Parent Edge and a Mercer Island Community Scholarship.