Katlynn Haas is going to graduate from high school on Thursday. She, along with her fellow Clover High School seniors, will walk across the stage, get a diploma and move into the next phase of her life.
For Haas, whose friends call her “Katie,” that phase is college, But until last month, Haas’ college dreams seemed unattainable. Her grandparents have raised her and although her grandmother said they love her more than words can say, love does not pay the tuition bills.
But then, at last month’s scholarship and award night at Clover High School, Haas’ dreams were realized when she was named the recipient of the first Kirsh Family Scholarship, created in the memory of former state Rep. Herb Kirsh and his wife, Suzanne.
“Boy, was she shocked,” said Kevin Kirsh, one of the late couple’s sons.
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Haas will get $25,000 per year, renewable for up to four years, provided she maintains a “B” average and makes progress toward her bachelor’s degree.
“Before my dad passed away, we had a long talk about what he wanted to with his money,” Kirsh said.
Herb Kirsh served 32 years in the S.C. Legislature. When he left the General Assembly after losing his 2010 re-election bid to Tommy Pope, Kirsh was the longest serving legislator in state history. He died in January at the age of 84.
Before he died, Kirsh and his family decided to help send a deserving student to college.
The Kirsh Family Scholarship formed. Haas and others applied. They had to demonstrate financial need and write several essays, which were judged by a committee, which selected Haas.
Although Kevin Kirsh wasn’t on the committee, he read Hass’ essays and was touched by her story, about a girl who no one believed in who just wanted to go to college to make a better life.
In the fall, Haas will start her college career at USC-Upstate. She wants to study nursing, to learn how to be a pediatric nurse. In college, she’s looking forward to being on her own and starting life in the “real world.” But she’s got other reasons to be excited about college, too.
“I wanted to show everyone I could do it as well, even though I don’t have any money,” Haas said. “I want to be a role model to my cousins and siblings.”
Kirsh said his father, who dedicated so much of his life to giving back to the community, would be “tickled to death” about Haas and the scholarship.
“They picked a good person, in my opinion,” Kirsh said of Haas.
Each year, Kirsh said, they’ll select another worthy student like Haas, and help send that student to college. And eventually, Kevin Kirsh said he’ll devote a good portion of his money to helping even more.
His hope is to be able to give these large scholarships to five students every year because, for students like Haas, it means so much.
“It means everything,” Haas said. “I can’t believe I got it.”