Scholarship Story

Scholarship to Benefit Park County Student Graduates

November 16, 2021

A new scholarship fund to benefit future graduates of Park County high schools seeking to further their education. The Park County Scholarship Fund was established at MCF through a generous gift from Philip Morris USA.

The $500,000 fund will help Park County graduates continue their education beyond high school. For each of the next five years, five Park County high school graduates can each receive up to $20,000 toward their education. Each scholarship recipient will receive $5,000 each year, for up to four years.

Graduating seniors from Park County High School, Gardiner High School, and Shields Valley High School, pursuing a degree from an accredited post-secondary educational institution, are eligible to apply. This includes universities, colleges, and trade or technical schools. Students can apply online for the scholarship starting January 1, 2022.

In July, Philip Morris USA sold the Crazy Mountain Ranch, an 18,000-acre working cattle and dude ranch in Clyde Park. Philip Morris USA has been a regular community supporter over the years and established the Park County Scholarship Fund to provide lasting support to the community.

“It’s our hope that these educational grants help create opportunity for residents of a community where we were neighbors for more than twenty years,” said Mike Brace, Vice President and General Manager, Philip Morris USA. “By investing in education and career pathways of Park County students, we hope to contribute to bright futures in such a special community.”

Scholarships not only help offset the cost and financial stress that often comes with pursuing continued education but students who attend education beyond high school, generally have increased earning potential and experience lower rates of poverty.

According to data from the Office of Public Instruction (OPI), from 2017-2020, Park County saw an average high school graduation rate of about 93%. However, Census data shows that only about 44% of the population, age 18-24, has additional education beyond high school.

On average, the median household earnings for individuals with a bachelor’s degree is twice that of those without a degree. According to Census data, within Park County, those with a bachelor's degree earn an average of $13,825 more annually than those with only a high school degree or equivalent.

Additionally, this same data shows 18% of those with only a high school degree live below the poverty line. This percentage decreased to 9.9% with an associate degree, and even further to 3.9% for those with a bachelor’s degree. Pursuing education beyond high school not only increases one’s economic future but can lead to better health outcomes as well.

“We are honored to partner with Philip Morris USA to establish this scholarship fund,” says Mary Rutherford, MCF president & chief executive officer. “Students are the future of our state and scholarships are a great way we can support their dreams and ambitions. We are excited to work with the community to ensure the fund continues beyond the first five years.”

This year, MCF has awarded nearly $450,000 in scholarships to 201 students. Scholarships are supported through funds established by generous donors committed to seeing Montana students succeed.