College Scholarship Winners Unveiled by United Way SWM

Three stellar students have earned college scholarship awards following competition among local youth from the Tri-County area in the United Way of Southwest Michigan Volunteer United Youth Scholarship Award series.

United Way of Southwest Michigan has announced this year’s Volunteer United Youth Scholarship Awards will go to one winner from each of the three counties in their service area of Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties who have demonstrated a commitment to volunteerism through innovation, dedication, and advocacy for community improvement throughout their high school careers.

In 2021, the annual scholarship awards go to:

  • Sarah Jannings of Lake Michigan Catholic High School (to attend Saint Mary’s College in the fall)
  • Drew Bidwell of Edwardsburg High School (Hope College)
  • Hahna Gorenz of Michigan Lutheran High School (Southwestern Michigan College).

While still in high school, Sarah Jannings is taking dual-enrollment courses at Lake Michigan College. Sarah is a member of the National Honor Society, Environmental Club, Rotary Interact Club, Key Club, Sacred Life Club, Class Council, 4-H Clubs, International Club, and more. She says, “As I look around my community, I can see it growing from volunteerism,” and adds, “Through my own volunteer endeavors, I’ve helped to make a positive difference in my community, and I know if others volunteer their time to help those in need, they can too.”

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“Determination” and “perseverance” are two words that Drew Bidwell’s teacher used to describe him. During his senior year, Drew was an elected official of  the National Honor Society and won the Ron Holland Scholar Athlete of the Year. He wrestled and played football throughout his high school career, earning all-state honors. He was motivated to volunteer at the Edwardsburg Sports Complex because he wanted to give kids in Edwardsburg a place to stay active, participate in sports, and create memories that will last a lifetime. In the fall, Drew plans to play collegiate football and major in business and economics.

High School senior Hahna Gorenz says, “I’ve had four blessed years in high school, and I am very excited to start a new chapter pursuing nursing this fall. I’m looking forward to continuing to help the community around me and hope to inspire others to do the same.” Hahna volunteered at Lighthouse Attic and the New Buffalo Fire Department. She went on a mission trip to Alaska and taught Sunday School to preschoolers. In 2019, Hahna received more than 2,000 donations to create care packages full of toys, stuffed animals, and books for children at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital. Hahna has decided to work in the medical field so she can give back to the community in the future.

Debbie Ramirez, Volunteer Engagement Director at United Way of Southwest Michigan, says, “We are fortunate to have in our community so many young people who want to help others from an early age. Not only does Southwest Michigan benefit from their contributions, but it sets them up for later success because of the experience gained from volunteering.” She adds, “We are proud to award our youth volunteer leaders in a way to helps launch them into a bright future, full of meaning.”

This year’s winners will be honored, along with other volunteer leader award winners, at UWSM’s annual Volunteer Recognition Event, to be hosted on October 7, 2021.

United Way of Southwest Michigan fights for the Health, Education, and Financial Stability of every person in every community. They have the influence and relationships to make sustainable change a reality. By harnessing resources from corporate, nonprofit, and public partners, they provide immediate assistance to the most vulnerable populations among us, while addressing the root causes of the community’s longstanding challenges and changing lives for the better. To join the fight—through giving, advocacy, and volunteering— you can visit http://www.uwsm.org.