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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

$1.6 million in scholarships awarded to trades students in Washington

Sherman Birdtail is one of the 3 WAVE scholarship recipients in the Spokane area. He said the scholarship will help relieve some of the financial burden on him as he cares for his family.  (Photo courtesy of Sherman Birdtail)

About $1.6 million in scholarships was awarded to 121 students by Washington’s Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board.

The Washington students will receive up to $13,536 each in June.

The scholarship, called the Washington Award for Vocational Excellence or WAVE Scholarship, was recently funded an additional $500,000 by Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington Legislature. This increase has led to more scholarships being awarded to more students, according to Gary Chandler, Workforce Board co-chair.

“I think everybody, including Spokane, is needing new workers,” Chandler said. “And that’s why the real press is to get more kids out of high school with some scholarship money, to where they can continue to use their education, graduate and get more big bucks.”

Established in 1984, the scholarship went on pause in 2010 after the Great Recession . After 12 years of dormancy, the Legislature reinstated it in 2022. Since then, application numbers have been steadily rising, according to Andrew Lenderman, communications manager for the Workforce Board. This year there were 334 applicants, and three students from every legislative district were selected via a merit-based application.

Sherman Birdtail, 32, was one of the three applicants selected for Washington’s 3rd legislative district, which includes much of central Spokane.

This fall, Birdtail will be returning for his second year of cosmetology at Spokane Community College. With his degree, he will be applying for a management position at the spa where he works on the Spokane Reservation.

“I know that having families and going through work life and getting older – stress and time – we all need some relaxing time,” Birdtail said. “So hospitality is something I’d really like to focus on and give back to my community.”

Outside of school, Birdtail is an avid father who enjoys teaching his children about arts, crafts and imagination. Receiving the Workforce Board scholarship will help him continue to support his family while pursuing his career goals.

“Usually my money goes directly towards my children, but it’s gonna help me with my tuition and some extra tools that I might need, and just getting through the school year,” Birdtail said. “I’m gonna be able to complete my degree without having to worry about it.”

Christopher Chase from Rogers High School and Randal Heath from Newtech Skills Center were the two other students selected in Washington’s 3rd district. Chase plans to study information technology, and Heath plans to study arts and audio visual technology and communications, according to the Workforce Board’s scholarship awardees page.