RACINE — On Thursday morning, seniors from the Southern High School Class of 2017 received scholarships and awards as has been done for so many years.
Since the Class of 1993, one constant as part of those awards has been the presence of the RACO (Racine Area Community Organization) Scholarship, founded by the only President the organization has ever known, Kathryn Hart.
Thursday was no exception, as 10 RACO scholarships, along with many others handled by the organization were presented. The only thing missing was Hart.
The long-time pillar of the Racine community passed away on Monday and will be laid to rest on Friday.
Southern High School Principal Daniel Otto began the awards ceremony with a moment of silence in memory of Hart.
Otto said that Hart will be remembered for the work she did for others, as well as the work that she got others to be part of.
Hart, said Otto, was giving, selfless, genuine, devoted, caring, diligent, persevering, respected and will be remembered for her leadership. Marlee Maynard was recognized by Otto as the student he said best represents the spirit of what Hart brought to the community.
A graduate of Southern High School 55 years ago, Kathryn’s husband Dale Hart told the students during the awards ceremony that Kathryn never had the chance to further her education and made it one of her missions to make sure that today’s youth had that opportunity. And, that when they became successful in their own lives, they likewise give back to the students and community.
Melanie Weese, who along with Dale Hart presented the RACO awards, said that Kathryn Hart had served as the president of RACO since its beginning in 1992, with the first scholarships presented in the spring of 1993. Then, it was two scholarships valued at $200 each.
Raising funds through the twice a year yard sales, as well as donations, the scholarships have grown to the point where 10 RACO scholarships valued at $1,000 each were presented to the Class of 2017.
Additionally, numerous individuals and families have created scholarships through RACO which are given to graduates each year, including the Edison and Mabel Brace Memorial (Kathryn’s parents), Anderson and Eleanor Owens Educational Scholarship (the parents of one of Kathryn’s doctors), the Jim Adams Memorial, Racine Enginuity Scholarship and numerous others.
Dale Hart said that over the years the committee selecting the scholarship winners has made it a point to not know the identity of the winners during the selection process, making it an unbiased process.
This time, Kathryn broke the rules.
Kathryn wanted to present five, $1,000 scholarships to students who are part of the Class of 2017, and knew who she wanted the money to go to.
After putting her own money toward the scholarships, the first Kathryn Hart Scholarships were presented on Thursday to Eli Hunter, Lucas Hunter, Trey Pickens, Crenson Rogers and Jordan Fisher.
While family, friends and the Racine community say goodbye to Kathryn this week, her memory and legacy will live on in the lives of the numerous students she has touched through the scholarships through the years, as well as those who will continue to receive the scholarships in years to come thanks to the organization Kathryn built at RACO.