AWFS increases its student scholarships

The Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers has awarded 27 students a total of $82,000 for the 2008-2009 academic year. The AWFS scholarship committee gave out more scholarships this year than it has in the history of the program. In the General Industry category, $40,000 of the total went to students pursuing degrees or certificates in industry-related programs, such as fine woodworking, wood science, furniture studies and technology education.

“The increase is a direct result of marketing the program,” says Adria Torrez, education manager for AWFS. “We’ve had the money available for students pursuing industry-related careers, but not that many schools knew about it. This year we sent out e-mail notifications to all the schools in the database we created for our resource Web site, www.woodindustryed.org, and let them know what was available to their students. We received more applications than ever before.”

AWFS offers scholarships in three areas: The Member scholarships are for the children of employees of AWFS member companies. The General Industry scholarship program encourages and supports those who are planning careers in secondary wood products and related industries. A portion of the General Industry scholarships are reserved as WoodLINKS scholarships, given to eligible students who’ve completed the WoodLINKS training program at their respective high schools. AWFS is a strong supporter of WoodLINKS, a national woodworking industry-based educational partnership.

Member scholarships are awarded at $3,000 per year, while the Industry and WoodLINKS scholarships range from $1,000 to $4,000 per year, depending on the program selected.

“We give the [Industry] scholarship recipients the option to get a little more, because programs that benefit our industry generally do not have access to as many scholarships as the more traditional programs do,” says Torrez.

The amount of money awarded is determined primarily by the tuition of the intended school.

“The scholarship program has never been as competitive as this year,” says Torrez. “In the past year, we usually did not have more applications than we had funds for the General Industry scholarships.”

This has caused the AWFS committee to review the guidelines and look more closely at the relationship of the students’ programs to the wood industries and related industries as represented by AWFS member companies. For example, applicants pursuing furniture design and production, architectural millwork and teaching career technical education are more directly related to the AWFS mission than construction technology and carpentry, although they will be considered as funding allows.

“It is very difficult to select the recipients of this scholarship,” says Jon Sanchez, chair of the AWFS scholarship committee. “We are looking for individuals who may become future leaders of our industry. In addition to academic merit, other factors in the decision-making process include the specific career paths and degrees the students have chosen.”

“This program has been in existence for 30 years and is a valuable benefit of AWFS membership,” says AWFS executive vice president Angelo Gangone. “It is truly a challenge for the scholarship committee to select winners from the 60 or more students that apply for the member scholarships each year. Each applicant is highly qualified and extremely dedicated to success in [his or her] school career.”

AWFS employs an independent coordinator to compile test scores and GPAs. The committee also looks at extracurricular activity involvement and employment.