Laura Kloss has signed on as program director for Sisters Graduate Resource Organization (GRO). photo provided
Laura Kloss has signed on as program director for Sisters Graduate Resource Organization (GRO). photo provided
The Graduate Resource Organization (GRO), which facilitates the scholarship program available to Sisters High School graduates, has grown enough in recent years that the all-volunteer GRO board of directors put plans in place last year to hire a part-time program director.

The plan came to fruition earlier this month and Laura Kloss is the happy recipient of the position. She will officially begin her duties in mid-December.

The board received a healthy number of applicants for the job, but Kloss’s experience and vision stood out, according to Ross.

“When we interviewed Laura, I knew we had found the right person,” he said. “She was looking to make a change in her life, our job gives her the flexibility she was looking for, and she had way more skills and experience than I thought we would find. She is going to do great things for Sisters GRO and the greater Sisters community.”

Kloss, who hails from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, has had a long career in higher education in the field of career development, most recently for OSU-Cascades, where she has worked for the past six years since moving to Bend.

Kloss said, “I worked in similar positions at the University of St. Thomas and St. Olaf College, both in Minnesota, and at St. Lawrence University in Upstate New York. Over my now-15 years as a career educator, I have had the opportunity to walk alongside students of all backgrounds and abilities as they navigate the complexities of college life and career planning.”

She views her experience making a natural fit with GRO and explained how her own college experience made her deeply appreciate the importance of financial assistance.

As a high school hockey player, Kloss aspired to get to the next level and play in college and was aided in the process through scholarship money that allowed her to finish high school at a private school in Minnesota. She went on to play Division 1 hockey at the University of New Hampshire and Bemidji State University in Minnesota, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and, soon after, a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

“I would not be who I am or where I am today without the financial assistance that I received as a student,” she said, “which is one of the many reasons I am excited to join Sisters GRO in cultivating these opportunities for students in the Sisters community.”

A mother of two sons, aged three and five, Kloss envisions moving to Sisters with her husband Todd within the next couple of years “in order to enroll our children into the Sisters School District and find our place in a smaller, vibrant community.”

In addition to managing local scholarships for graduates, GRO also facilitates the distribution of funds through the Roundhouse Foundation, and is closely tied to the ASPIRE program that matches volunteer mentors with students to scope out post-high-school plans.

“I am excited to join Sisters GRO in cultivating these opportunities for students in the Sisters community,” she added.

GRO chair Tim Ross explained the board’s decision to add a paid position to the organization.

“Ever since I joined the Board of Sisters GRO, I have been concerned about burnout of the board members,” he said. “There is so much time required to make it all work so that the students get their scholarships. We have tried to focus on improving our methods and efficiency in order to streamline the process.”

He continued, “Our first big step was implementing the web-based process for our applications and selections. But, even with this change, the workload has been increasing as a result of the many new scholarships we have added over the past three years. After a study was done by a consultant, the board decided the time was right to hire a professional to help us out. We needed someone with a vision for how we can get better, reach new donors and ensure Sisters GRO is around for a long time.”

Kloss sensed through the interview process that the GRO Board shared some of her passion.

“I care deeply about the development of youth and young adults and have first-hand exposure to the benefits of post-secondary training and higher education and the impact they have on the vitality of individual’s lives and careers.”

When asked about her focus in starting the new position, Kloss appears more than ready to hit the ground running.

“In the short-term, the first project that I am looking forward to is having the time to connect with the last dozen years of scholarship recipients, learn more about their journeys and be able to share their stories with the board and the community,” she said. “Donors to the organization have had a monumental impact on these individual’s lives and we are excited to increase that awareness. In addition, I will be connecting with our donors to hear their stories and understand how engagement with the organization has positively impacted their lives as well.”

In addition, she said, “We plan to roll out a new website and social platforms in the new year that will provide more opportunities for individuals and businesses to engage. In the meantime, we can be found at www.SistersGRO.org.”