This year, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation will award over $1 million dollars in scholarships to area students furthering their education.
Through the gracious support of its donors, the Foundation administers over 300 scholarship funds to students of all ages studying a variety of subjects. Over a dozen of those scholarships are specifically directed to benefit students entering vocational, technical or trade fields of study.
These funds are often inspired by the life of individuals who had a passion for, and made a successful career for themselves, in the vocational field.
Paul Johnson, a Jamestown native, credited career opportunities he had working in machine shops to the training he received at Jamestown High School. Concerned with the lack of interest and academic focus on trade careers in 1998 he established the Paul A. Johnson Trade School Fund to assist graduating JHS students pursuing vocational careers.
“I was determined in my small way to help deserving students to go to a trade school after high school. The trades will always be with us,” stated Johnson, after establishing the fund.
A well-known figure in our community, Marion Panzarella was a longtime Board of Public Utilities Chairman and one of the founding members of the Foundation. Panzarella, a Falconer High School graduate, studied electrical engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute.
Additionally, he went on to obtain several master’s degrees and a doctorate in science education. Panzarella taught technical studies, physics, biology and mathematics locally at both the high school and college level.
Following his passing in 1998 and his wife’s passing in 2000, The Marion A. Panzarella Fund was established to benefit a student majoring in vocational studies. The fund has since awarded over a dozen scholarships to students majoring in fields such as computer technology, forensic science and mechanical technology.
Another fund that was inspired by a passion for the trades is the Island X-11 N.Y. Navy SEABEES/John Oleszak Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund was established by a local group of World War II Navy veterans who wanted to invest in the future skills of local students that also represented the spirit of the SEABEES.
During WWII, thousands of men served in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as SEABEES, building and fighting across six continents and over 300 islands. They were known for their “can do” motto, which means no job or task is too small or large to take on and complete.
In 2010, Jamestown High School graduate, Christopher Proctor became the first SEABEES scholarship recipient to continue his studies at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Today, Proctor is employed locally by Hope’s Windows as a hollow metal welder in an architectural division.
It is through the passion, dedication and generosity of individuals like Johnson, Panzarella and members of the Island X-11 N.Y. Navy SEABEES, future generations will be able to pursue opportunities in the vocational, technical or trade fields of study.