The local community stepped up in a big way this year to provide a financial boost to graduating Sisters High School seniors. Graduates received a total of $133,000 in local scholarship support, according to data released last week by Sisters Graduate Resource Organization (GRO).

That amount was a significant increase over the $101,100 awarded in 2012. According to Sisters GRO, 53 percent of graduating seniors submitted scholarship applications (including students who were nominated or considered for an award but didn't necessarily turn in an application). That, too, is an increase over previous years. There were 39 local scholarships available, with some of them involving multiple awards, resulting in 77 individual scholarships being awarded.

This year, Sisters GRO instituted a new program designed to ensure that more qualified students received scholarship support.

Donors were asked to use a confidential form to provide multiple choices of deserving students to a final selection committee. If their top candidate was the recipient of another scholarship, then their scholarship was awarded to one of their other top candidates. Their first candidate received the larger of the two scholarships.

Participating in the program was voluntary for the donors. According to Sisters GRO, 24 of the 39 donors (61.5 percent) opted to use the new procedure.

"Approximately 20 percent increase of student recipients was achieved through the implementation of option one in the selection process," Sisters GRO reported. "Six additional students received at least one scholarship award."

The program was regarded as a success. Sisters GRO's report stated that:

"Sisters GRO plans to continue offering this 'spreading scholarships' selection process in future years and where appropriate we expect that more donors will participate by 'opting in' to the process."

Sisters GRO chairperson Karen Hensley was pleased to see that more students got scholarships and more students received multiple scholarships thanks to the modified selection process. She told The Nugget that the system now in place is objective and effective and won't be changed. It is possible that more donors will "opt in" in future years, and that they will provide longer lists of qualified for selection.

"I think that's the only way we'd see more change, but the system won't change," she said.

Hensley expressed appreciation for all those who donated to post-high-school scholarships and awards.

"We can never thank you enough for your commitment and part in providing our graduates with recognition, encouragement and financial support of higher education and vocational training," she said. "Thank you!"