Laurel Christiansen Scholarship

Tuesday 22 May 2007 @ 11:58 am
Laurel Christiansen

As a child I grew up in a small town in Southern Utah. I had amazing parents. My father completely lost his sight when he was four years old. Despite being completely blind, he went on to become a successful Attorney. My mother was equally amazing. She was 15 younger than my father. One of their greatest fears was my mother would be widowed for much of her later life. Ironically fate played an awful trick and my mother and she died of breast cancer at the age of 58 leaving my father the one alone.

My mother was one of the strongest people I know. She had the courage and determination to become what I call a trend breaker. Despite all odds and with immense sacrifice she went on to be the first one in her family to graduate from college. She blazed a trail not only for all of her brothers and sisters to follow, but also all of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Growing up in my parents home, B’s were not acceptable. It was never spoken, it was simply understood.

My brothers and I collaborated and determined one of the best ways to honor my mother was to create a scholarship in her name. Our mother was always behind the scenes ensuring others received acknowledgment and award. It was with great joy we brought our mother into the spotlight by awarding scholarships to deserving young women in her name.

Today I drove down to Beaver High School and experienced a rush of emotion as I awarded scholarships to 3 young women whom have the great potential that my mother realized and we believe will be trend breakers in their respective families. These three young ladies are:

Recipients of Laurel Christiansen Scholarship

1st place – Courtney Ann Rogers
2nd place – Shannon Joseph
3rd place – Whitney Whitbeck

At the request of several of my associates, I post the scholarship information and a bit of my mothers background relating to her intense drive to obtain her education.

Laurel Christiansen was a born in a small town in Sevier County Utah. She was the first in her family to attend college and she did so at great personal sacrifice and with dogged determination. She was a trend setter who broke through many barriers allowing her brothers, sisters and her children to follow. After college she came to Beaver High School to teach Art. She married John Christiansen, the blind County Attorney and had four sons. While her children were young she took a break from teaching and focused on instilling a love of education in her children. She then returned to teach 1st grade at Belknap Elementary. She is fondly remembered by many in Beaver as a “Master 1st grade teacher”.

She raised four boys and twelve foster children. She loved with all of her might and strength her daughter in laws, grandchildren, and masses of elementary school children. Our mother’s impact has always been from the background. She has taken no public spotlight. Her life’s song has been sung in beautiful support by those around her. Through this scholarship we wish to publicly honor the incredible and lasting impact that this amazing woman has made.

Excerpts From My Story’s Song

Applicants, in preparation for this scholarship, please read the following Excerpts from Laurel Christiansen’s Biography titled My Story’s Song. This will give you a better feel for what this scholarship is about and what we are looking for in a successful candidate.

The first year of college at BYU was very challenging and difficult for me. I had earned enough money to pay tuition and start out the year; however, my resources quickly diminished with the many expenses of school. So, during my second quarter at BYU my father helped me pay tuition. Still, paying the cost of living expenses was left up to me. I soon became a familiar face at the BYU employment office. I checked there weekly to find any little “odds-and-ends” jobs to earn money. Dora Young, who shared the bedroom with me, and with whom I had become very close, suggested that I take my money and purchase a sack of whole wheat and some powdered milk. She stated that it would keep me alive and eating. It did! Wheat and powdered milk helped me survive. This first year of college was by far the most difficult and challenging for me. I just about didn’t make it financially, and my grades suffered terribly as well. However, I felt very determined to receive an education and to eventually graduate. The learning process gave me joy and satisfaction, and mattered very much to me.

During my second year my love and appreciation for education deepened, as did my desire to become an art teacher.

By my third year, I was taking many classes in my major. I decided to go into Art Education (Secondary). I took a very heavy schedule, 18-20 credit hours per quarter. Despite the extra load my grades were much better and I felt at peace and happy. After completing two additional quarters I decided to attend the summer block as well. At this time I needed to get a student loan so that I could finish out my last year of schooling. I remember that when I applied, the fellow interviewing me asked me many questions. He told me he would give me the loan, for which I was very grateful. He stated that he did not encounter a girl like me very often. He felt that I was unusual because I was so determined to finish my education. He said I seemed more like a foreign student, and that I had values like an “old-fashioned girl.”

In making the decision to teach, I determined that I wanted to stay and work somewhere in the state of Utah. That was where my family was. I also wanted to teach in a small rural town because I was a farm girl at heart. I was interviewed (grilled, may be more accurate) by both Ogden and Salt Lake City, but my heart was won over during the interview with David Pierce from the Beaver County School District. The position of art teacher at Beaver High School was exactly what I wanted. I accepted Mr. Pearce’s offer immediately.

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Rich Christiansen