Peninsula Hawk Scholarship Fund Rewards 44 Key Peninsula Seniors

Founded by a group of parents in 1984, the fund is now one of the largest in the state.


One hundred and fifty-two graduating seniors received over $320,000 in scholarships ranging from $500 to $11,000 at the virtual Peninsula Hawk Scholarship Fund award ceremony May 19. Forty-four winners were from the Key Peninsula.

Any Peninsula High School senior planning to attend any type of accredited educational institution, vocational or academic, is eligible for a Hawk Scholarship. Students apply by submitting portfolios including their academic records, community service resumes, personal statements, and recommendations. Every student who successfully applies receives a scholarship.

“Many donors were impacted financially by the pandemic and not able to give this year,” said PHSF Donor Chair Hayley Nichols. “It was apparent that it broke their hearts to not be able to be part of the giving this year. However, we were astounded by the donors who were able to step in and contribute more, filling in the gaps and then some.” 

The Seahawks Academic and Vocational Education (SAVE) Thrift Store, located at 1401 Purdy Drive, also made a significant contribution in spite of pandemic-related restrictions, Nichols said. The store manager, Kendra Zartman, got creative.

“She ran online sales with pickup, navigated the rules and regulations like a pro and kept the store running with a fraction of the volunteers needed to operate on a daily basis,” Nichols said. “Our community was generous with their donations to the store, so much so that we had to cap the days and times people could donate.”    

The scholarship fund was founded in 1984 by a group of PHS parents who wanted to provide more recognition to seniors at a time when the school was losing students to then recently opened Gig Harbor High.

“There were a bunch of us mothers who had kids in Peninsula for years; I remember there was quite a contingent from the Key Peninsula,” said Gretchen Jordal of Gig Harbor, the first scholarship committee president. “We wanted to do something that would give some recognition to these kids, not a great amount of money.”

“There were about seven of us at first,” said Sandra Newhouse of the KP. “Joan Ryan, Dorcas Colito, Edie Harlow, Jane Hoffecker, Ann Larson, Chris Carol; Marsha Williams was a counselor.”

The Hawk fund awarded $5,000 to graduating seniors in its first year, doubling the amount PHS had been giving.

“We were ecstatic, and now of course you’re up to over $300,000. Isn’t that something?” Jordal said.

PHSF is now one of the largest high school scholarship programs in the state, according to the Peninsula School District. Ideas to fund it came from a number of sources.

“Ellen Griffin was a counselor at PHS, and she was up in Port Angeles and found this program they were doing where students would make a notebook with their GPA and their interests and recommendations and so on to get a scholarship,” Newhouse said. “She brought the idea back and we just jumped on it. We also had a lady on the committee, Avon Gay, who absolutely insisted that we give vocational school scholarships also.”

“Avon Gay was instrumental,” Jordal said. “She had read some place that there were scholarship programs around the country that had thrift stores.” Gay received permission from the school district to set up a donation station and thrift store in an unused portable classroom on campus.

“Avon went to the superintendent and said ‘You’re not using this portable; we want to use it for a thrift store,’ and he said ‘OK.’ She was very pushy about it, and she would not mind my saying that,” Newhouse said. The first SAVE thrift store workers included Becky Howson, Pat Mielbrecht and Gay, who has since died.

The portable was destroyed by fire the next year (“Arson Fire Destroys SAVE Building at PHS,” KP News, Sept. 1987). Gay then negotiated the use of a former fire station owned by PSD on Purdy Drive, where the current thrift store is located.

“I got involved when my son was a freshman in high school and my daughter is graduating this year, so we are going on eight years now,” said Nichols, the donor chair. “This is the most rewarding volunteer organization I have had the privilege to serve. It is truly an honor to help facilitate the distribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to deserving students so that they can pursue their career goals. Not to mention the message it sends that their community believes in them.

“One thing we need is more volunteers. You don’t have to have a student at Peninsula to join us,” she said.