- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - The Williston community has been affected by the oil boom in a lot of negative ways, but many bright spots have come because of the vast oil production.

One of those came last month when Williston State College made one of its biggest announcements, offering free scholarships to all Williams County high school graduates, the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1vGO0Gh ) reported.

The scholarship allows the county’s high school graduates to go to WSC for free, no matter when they graduated high school, and includes tuition, fees and books.

The money is a product of the oil boom generated through the Alva J. Field Trust, WSC Foundation and the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund.

“I’m excited that we were able to put this together with the Alva J. Field Trust, I’m grateful for the N.D. challenge fund and thankful for the people who came before us and donated to this foundation,” said Terry Olson, acting president and executive director of Williston State College Foundation.

Williston High School is excited about scholarship and the chance for a free higher education is not possible anywhere else in North Dakota. The day the scholarship was announced, counselors at WHS had students coming to their offices to talk about the opportunity.

“When the news came out, students started visiting with me how it was going to change plans for next year,” said Brent Lysne, counselor at WHS.

Lysne said this is an opportunity for students who thought college was not an option because of money, or college wasn’t for them, to take a free test run and see if it is right for them. He said the scholarship will be a great reason for families to stay in Williston.

“It will make a huge impact on kids who thought they couldn’t afford it,” he said. “Free post-secondary education is a reason for family to stay.”

Plans are being made by a lot of students to stay at WSC, Lysne said.

“Why wouldn’t we go here?” asked Taylor Bloxham, a senior at WHS.

Bloxham and two other seniors, Alyssa Wiedrich and Maria Semenko, both said they have changed their plans of possibly going to a different school and staying at home.

“Half of our class is going to WSC,” Wiedrich said.

While the free education is a plus, there are other positives the future college students see at WSC. The students like that class sizes are smaller, and the diversity found at WSC.

The students were also glad to see oil had a positive impact on their education and community.

“It’s a good way to give back,” Bloxham said.

Olson is excited for all the same reasons.

Having students coming to WSC campus, which has greatly improved in recent years, is something that when these donations started, Olson didn’t think would be possible.

“I think it is going to cause a lot of kids to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to give college a try,’” Olson said. “This is one of the bright spots of oil income and a bright spot from donors who I don’t believe it would have this much impact.”


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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