At Synergy we continuously strive to make our clients better places to work and help employees grow and progress in their careers. We also believe strongly in giving back. Each year, we select two graduating high school seniors for the Melissa Marie Watson Academic Achievement Award. I’m happy to announce that this year’s recipients are Mallory Cavanaugh and Lauren Shultz, both highly deserving of this recognition. Each receives a $1,000 award for their first year of college and are eligible for subsequent $500 awards each year for three years as long as they continue to perform academically and their sponsoring parent or grandparent remains a Synergy worksite employee.
This scholarship program began in 1999 with the desire to go above and beyond and reward outstanding academic achievement in the children or grandchildren of our employees. The award’s namesake, Melissa, was the daughter of Synergy Payroll Coordinator Kim Watson and her husband Charlie. In 2002 she was tragically killed in an auto accident just before the start of her senior year in high school, and in 2003 there was no question that the scholarship program would be renamed in her honor to keep her memory alive. Ever since, two winners are chosen each year with Melissa at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
The criteria for selection is made up of several parts. 25% of the points an applicant can receive are based on Grade Point Average, with a further 25% based on the SAT or ACT scores of the student. The rest of the points are allocated based on letters of recommendation from their school and, weighing the most, a one-page essay in response to a predetermined question on the application. Three academic professionals who are independent of Synergy judged the applications and were happy to see insightful responses to this year’s question:
“Imagine we went back to 1988 – no cell phones, no tablets, no laptops, no social media – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. What would be better about that world? What has our ability to be constantly connected cost us? Can we find a way to recover what we have lost, even in the technological environment of 2018?”
The competition was tough, but Mallory and Lauren emerged out of this year’s eight applicants as the winners. Mallory is the daughter of Delsie Cavanaugh who works at Synergy client company Partners in Housing in Indianapolis. She is a graduate of Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Indiana, and will attend Purdue University in the fall. Lauren is the daughter of Janet Schultz of Legacy Bake House outside of Milwaukee. She is a graduate of Waukesha West High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and is enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for this fall.
Distributing the Melissa Marie Watson Academic Achievement Award means a lot to Synergy as it helps fulfill our desire to make the world a better place. Higher education is increasingly expensive and can be a heavy burden for many. Life is about more than just profit margins; it’s about helping others. For me, working with this award is hands down the most enjoyable part of my job.
My career with Synergy spans 23 years and I have been administering this award since the very beginning. It is very meaningful for me, and also happens to be a tremendous amount of fun. Calling the parents or grandparents of the winners and telling them that their child or grandchild has been selected is my favorite thing to do. The joy on the other end of the line is instantly fulfilling. Over the years I’ve had several memorable calls, with one family having three sisters all win in different years (and I hear they still have a younger sister in the household!). All entrants who are not selected for the award receive Amazon gift cards as a consolation prize and distributing those is fun for me as well.
For those with eligible children or grandchildren next year, I urge you to apply. Applications open again in January 2019 and all materials are due by the end of April. My best piece of advice for aspiring Melissa Marie Watson Academic Achievement Award applicants is to study, work hard in your coursework, and strive for the best grades and test scores possible. Thank you to all of this year’s applicants, and once again, congratulations to Mallory and Lauren!