June 23, 2017

Congratulations to Mike Wright of
Columbia Falls High School Class of 2003 !

        The recipient of the 2003 Jennifer Olson Memorial Scholarship is Mike Wright. His love of music, dedication to community service and effort to achieve academic excellence are traits shared with Jennifer and make him very deserving of this scholarship. He's the kind of person Jenn would have chosen for this honor.

Special thanks to Karen Ulmer for presenting this scholarship
along with Jennifer's Father.

Karen Ulmerís words when presenting the
Jennifer Olson Memorial Scholarship


        When my neighbor and family friend Norm Olson first asked me to present this scholarship I was honored, but trying to think of what I should say put me at a loss. How do you talk to a room full of people about someone you loved who is gone? How can you speak so solemnly about a life so bright? Can you reconcile the loss of someone close to you by finding traces of their drive, spirit and personality in someone else? It proved to be an impossible task and so I asked for help. What follows is a compilation of my feelings, the feelings of my son Nicholas, and of Jennifer's father Norm.

        I first met Jennifer Olson as the three-year-old daughter playing in my neighbor's back yard. We had just moved in to our new house and my son Nicholas was two years old. The two children soon grew to be "best bud'sĒ losing themselves for whole summer afternoons in those little worlds only children have. They were totally inseparable for their preschool and early elementary years and remained back yard friends even as they grew up and pursued different interests.

        Because she grew up so close to me, I have many mental pictures of Jenn I remember her bundled up in winter clothes belting out "Frosty the Snowman" with my son in the front yard to the snowman they'd just built Nicholas remembers her as the gangly girl with sunburned kneeshe'd thread his way through the raspberry cane behind our house with, gobbling every berry in sight. For Norm, itís the day in the middle of July that Jenn rode her bike up and down the street dressed as a clown.

        But none of these memories' dear to her family and friends as they may be, could serve as a stepping stone for a scholastic award. We are fortunate, though, that among the many memories Jenn left behind, memories of a life embraced enthusiasm and joy, there was one interest which blossomed into something truly special. This bloom was a keen gift for music. This talent was something shared closely with her dad and also with me, as it was my privilege to teach her music as her band director throughout her junior high school years. I listened as her musical skills developed both in the classroom and in her back yard, where she would sit and practice her flute.

        When Norm established this scholarship in her memory, he thought it fitting that it should emphasize Jenn's love of music. Students applying for this scholarship were required to write essays and those essays were submitted to Norm. He was looking for someone who shares Jenn's passion for music, her creative spirit, the courage to be an individual, and hopefully, the brilliant spectrum of color that lit up everything she laid her hands on. He believes, and I share that belief that a most worthy recipient exists in Mike Wright, whom we all hope will carry on Jenn's promise with fervor, dedication and color.


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