Education Lab

Hanford High student gets $40,000 surprise

High school senior Emma Van Fossen was sitting quietly Friday morning in an audience of fellow students at Hanford High when she was asked to come forward and be interviewed about community service for a documentary.

Van Fossen told Tammy Tumbling, director of philanthropy, community investment & creative services at Southern California Edison, that she had revived the school math club, which tutors students on campus.

“Thank you,” Tumbling said. “As a matter of fact, we’re going to give you a gift for doing that  You look like you have a kind spirit about you and you seem really smart, I’m going to give you some money.”

With that, an Edison employee pulled out a ceremonial check for $40,000 as the assembled students applauded in the school library.

“It means I won’t have student loans, which is amazing,” said Van Fossen, 17.

She will attend Fresno State in the fall as an engineering major.

There was a rumor going around campus that someone would be receiving a scholarship Friday, but “it was very secretive,” Van Fossen said. “I did not know it would be me.”

Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, awards 30 scholarships yearly to students who major in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math.

This year, the company has given 18 scholarships like this one at public ceremonies where the recipient doesn’t know it’s coming. The rest are also surprises in which a parent breaks the news to the child and records it for Edison.

To be considered, the student must have at least a 3.0 GPA, plan to major in a STEM field, and live or attend school in the Edison service area.

Edison, which employs STEM grads, has a motive for giving the scholarships: “We are trying to build a pipeline from our customer base to our workforce,” Tumbling said.

Watching from the wings – she hid in a side room until the last minute – was Van Fossen’s mother, Marta Hendrickson.

“I’m really proud of her. She’s a great kid,” Hendrickson said.

Hanford High career education coordinator Cindi Homburg couldn’t help but shed tears. It’s her job to help students apply for scholarships, and she loves it when they succeed.

“She is sweet, highly intelligent but very humble,” Homburg said about Van Fossen.

Not only did Van Fossen get the Edison International scholarship, she has been accepted to Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State, which includes a scholarship, and is a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

Van Fossen said her favorite subjects are science and math. Reviving the Hanford High math club required giving a presentation to faculty members.

She plays saxophone in the school concert band and has a part-time job at the public library after three years volunteering.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold