SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The cost of paying for college just became a little easier for thousands of graduating students in Santa Barbara County.
On Thursday, a pair of award ceremonies were held just blocks apart in Santa Maria, where several million dollars in scholarships were given out.
At Allan Hancock College, inside Joe White Memorial Gymnasium, a record-number 391 students were awarded 471 scholarships from the Allan Hancock College Foundation. The scholarship total is also a record-breaking amount for the Foundation.
The amount of the scholarships combined totaled more than $500,000.
Just down College Drive at First Christian Church, several hundred high school and college students also received scholarship awards during a separate ceremony.
On Wednesday, South County students received financial awards at the Santa Barbara Courthouse's Sunken Garden.
The Thursday event was held for North County students, which are receiving 54 percent of the scholarships awarded by the Foundation this year.
"We are really thankful to all the people who decided to donate money for us who have dreams and a lot of times we're not able to accomplish those dreams because of economic hardship, but thanks to those donors, we have enough opportunity to accomplish those dreams that we have," said Righetti graduate Yosduan Ramos, who is attending CSU Channel Islands.
At the two ceremonies, the Foundation handed out $8.43 million in scholarships to 2,688 students. The average scholarship amount awarded was just over $3,000. Medical students received more, averaging $9,000 in award money this year.
This also marks a monumental achievement in the 55-year history of the Scholarship Foundation. The awards given this year brings the overall amount the Foundation has bestowed to more 47,000 students through the years to over $100 million.
“The Scholarship Foundation is so proud to reach this milestone,” remarked Scholarship Foundation Board Chair Barrett O’Gorman. “To be the first community-based scholarship program in the U.S. to distribute $100 million in scholarships says a lot about the people of Santa Barbara County. For such a small community, we receive an incredible level of generosity and support. Our donors understand how critical it is for students to have access to higher education and achieve a degree.”