Bret Harte High School hosted its annual Scholarship Night Presentation via YouTube livestream on Tuesday, with seniors receiving over $670,000 in local and outside scholarship awards.

Principal Heath Lane and Bret Harte Union High School District Superintendent Mike Chimente announced some of the winners from the school’s theater stage, while other local scholarships were presented by donor representatives through prerecorded videos.

Many of the students who received scholarships also submitted video clips of themselves describing their plans for the upcoming school year and thanking donors, while the Bret Harte Music Department provided classical tunes to set the mood.

According to Lane, staff members David Duggan and Courtney Brooksher went “above and beyond” behind the scenes to create the virtual award ceremony.

“We all wish that times were different and we could have every one of you in the theater tonight,” Lane said. “Working together with all of you, we tried, and I think we’ve succeeded, in making this work for all of our students.”

Similar to years past, local businesses, clubs, and private donors within the community gave away over $170,000 to roughly 60 seniors in scholarships based on the students’ interest and achievements in a wide range of fields.

However, this year was the first that students who received merit and athletics-based scholarships from outside institutions were recognized, bringing in another $500,000 divided between half-a-dozen seniors.

Bret Harte College and Career Advisor LeAnn Millar said she was the driving force behind including outside scholarships at the awards night, as she believes the students who receive those highly competitive scholarships deserve recognition.

Yet the future has become uncertain for the roughly 30% of Bret Harte seniors who plan to attend a four-year college immediately after graduating, Millar said, with many institutions, including the California State University system, opting to cancel some sports and in-person classes for the entirety of the fall semester.

As a result, about six Bret Harte seniors have told her they’re considering foregoing their first year at their chosen four-year institution for the cheaper option of community college.

Students had to transition to online learning in mid-March when campuses closed, and some dislike the format, she said.

“They’re making a decision whether they’re going to pay a lot of money for online classes at a four-year institution or start at Columbia (College),” Millar said.

In counseling students and parents, Millar advises them to “do what’s right” for their individual circumstances.

“I don’t think there’s one thing that’s right for all of them,” she said, though she added that students who received direct entry into competitive programs may want to stick it out.

Millar said one of the biggest challenges among students right now is looking beyond the milestones missed in their senior year and planning the next step during rapidly changing times.

On May 13, Bret Harte administrators announced plans for a drive-thru graduation ceremony to take place May 29, with seniors accepting their diplomas and having their picture taken inside their vehicles.

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Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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