All those nickels, dimes and quarters placed into the canisters at your local McDonald’s restaurants are helping to fuel ten, $8,000 college scholarships for some of the state’s most extraordinary high school graduates, including a trio of recent graduates from West Michigan, one of whom is a Wyoming student.
Taylor Keppel of Wyoming — along with Heather Price of Caledonia and Hanel Yu of Grand Rapids — was selected from a pool of some 200 applicants for outstanding academic achievement, community involvement and financial need from the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Outstate Michigan. RMHC is a non-profit that supports programs and efforts which improve the health and well-being of children from birth through age 18.
The canister funds, which collect approximately $550,000 annually from McDonald’s restaurants throughout Michigan, fund the Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholars program, and support RMHC’s other grantmaking efforts to children’s causes.
The trio will be honored along with seven other scholarship winners at a July 20 scholarship dinner for the scholars and their families at Amway World Headquarters in Ada, Mich. Each recipient will receive $2,000 a year for four years at a college of their choice.
“It’s a privilege to reward these young leaders for their extraordinary accomplishments,” said Lesa Dion, executive director of RMHC of Outstate Michigan, “Everyone involved with the Ronald McDonald House Charities takes pride in helping these students toward their goal of higher education.”
Keppel maintained a 3.96 grade point average at Calvin Christian High School, while volunteering with the Adaptive Tennis Clinics at Mary Free Bed Hospital and working as a part-time nanny during the school year. She’s been intrigued with the human eye since middle school and is headed to Grand Valley State University this fall to pursue a career in optometry.
“I love school and I’ve always excelled,” said Keppel. “I was so excited to learn I won a scholarship, and so were my parents. They’ve always pushed me to do my best, and it’s finally paying off.”
In addition to academic excellence, extracurricular activities and volunteering, Keppel played varsity tennis at high school and loves making art when she needs a break from her studies.
“It’s great relaxation from all the stress,” she said.
And she excels in that area as well. Her high school art teacher submitted one of her drawings for the Michigan Art Education Association (MAEA) Region 9 Highlight Show — which showcases top student art — and the piece was selected to show at the Grand Rapids Art Museum this past February. The piece was also selected to be a part of the Michigan Youth Arts Festival visual art exhibition in May. The show featured the top 100 artworks by high school artists for the entire state of Michigan.
“While volunteering in a school and orphanage in Guatemala, I met a boy named Esdras who taught me how to really appreciate the joys of life,” said Keppel. “I used a stippling technique which reminded me how our lives may not be perfect in every area, but life as a whole can be such a beautiful thing. I wanted to recreate the contagious smile and joy that erupted from this little boy.”
In addition to studies and art, Keppel played four years of varsity tennis in high school, and she loves to be adventurous.
“I recently went on an amazing spelunking trip in Mitchell, Indiana,” she said.
This is the eighth year that RMHC has awarded college scholarships for a total of $624,000 since the inception of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholars program. Interested students may begin applying for the 2017 scholarship on October 1. Go here.