Scholarship winner

Scholarship winner Grace Veenstra tells retired teachers how teachers inspired her. Kris Capps/News-Miner

Fairbanks retired teachers received a heartfelt reminder Wednesday of why they chose their profession.

West Valley High School graduate Grace Veenstra was one of five 2021 high school graduates who received a $1,500 scholarship from the Fairbanks Retired Teachers Association. She happened to be the only grant recipient who has not left Alaska to attend college, since she is attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks. So she was able to attend a special scholarship luncheon, and thank retired teachers in person.

“My mom has a plaque at home that says, ‘To Teach Is To Touch a Life Forever,” she told more than 35 retired teachers who attended. “All of you have done this more and beyond. When you send us off, you may never see us again. We carry the impact of your teachings for the rest of our lives.”

She detailed her own academic life, beginning in first and second grade and listed, by name, the teachers who taught her basic foundations of math and reading. In third grade, she learned how to do a research project and how to raise salmon. As she grew older, teachers taught her how to become a conscious and active citizen, how to look at the world and be critical both locally and globally.

“Thank you to all of you for serving the community and classroom through your teaching,” she said. “It inspired myself and countless other individuals. You help us explore the world. You continue to make an impact on former students and also on your community, with scholarships such as this.”

Grace plans a dual major in physics and psychology, perhaps incorporating communication. She is focused on the betterment of the world’s environment and wants to focus on climate science issues.

The other recipients, already en route to universities Outside, include:

• North Pole graduate Vikki Ann Lovelace, who will study early elementary education.

“If Vicki’s past is an indicator, she will be hard working, gifted elementary teacher, who can identify with all of her students,” said Judy Rae Smith, who spearheads the scholarship committee for the group.

• Luke Millam of Lathrop High School, who will attend the University of California-Berkeley to study mechanical engineering, intending to strengthen his skill at invention and innovation.

• Thea Millam, also of Lathrop High School, who will attend University of Southern California to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. She hopes to then become a doctor in sports medicine.

• Gage Tilley of West Valley High School, who will attend the University of Southern California to study interactive media, computer science and game design.

Heart Walk

The Fairbanks Heart Walk is Saturday, Aug. 21, an annual event that raises lifesaving funds and encourages physical activity.

Participants are invited to Veteran’s Memorial Park to celebrate heart and stroke survivors and to join others in the annual fundraising walk. Or, participants can also create their own walk.

“From parks and parkways to tucked away trails, participants can move at any location that inspires their heart health,” according to a press release from the American Heart Association.

The group walk begins at 10 a.m. Registration is at 9 a.m. So far, teams and individuals have raised $157,926.57. The goal is to raise $250,000. Go to to follow fundraising of teams and individuals.

Local organizers are Amy Cook of TOTE Fairbanks and Lisa Sundborg of Alaska Petroleum.

“This past year has shown us that no matter where we are, we can come together for a common cause,” said Lisa Sundborg. “The Heart Walk is all about promoting the health and well-being of our community and supporting the American Heart Association’s lifesaving mission.”

Register at Then download the free Heart Walk app and encourage friends/family to join via email or social media.

The Heart Walk is the signature event of the American Heart Association’s Heart Challenge program, designed to help companies, positive impact employee overall health and wellbeing.

Funds raised from the Fairbanks Heart Walk go toward research, advocacy, CPR training and to promote better health and reduce barriers to health care access and quality.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Follow her at