My Experience with Scholarships and Advice for Student Applicants by Ann Siciliano

Who: Amanda, our Director of Marketing and Program Initiatives, sat down with Ann Siciliano, Director of Program Services.


The Community Foundation is in scholarship season which means eligible students are applying for school funding. Preparing for college is scary enough, but we want student applicants to know that our staff is here for them. We want to give students the support they need to pursue their education. Learn more about our scholarships and read what Ann has to say below! 



Amanda: What kind of impacts have you seen over the years with the program?

Ann: I guess the impacts I’ve seen are many times for not just first generation students but for a lot of students that without the opportunity to have the scholarship money for them they would not have been able to finish school. They have written us and told us that. They have come by to visit. I have seen them out and about in the community. Many of the ones I run into relay that the impact it had and the burden that it lifted from them to be able to study and not work as much while they went to school. And it really kept them in school.

Amanda: Do you have a favorite memory of your time doing scholarships?

Ann: I think there is one student that comes to mind. He was one of our Early Ace scholarship recipients in the early years of that fund. There is a GPA requirement for that scholarship. It is a renewable scholarship but you need to keep a 3.0 GPA. If you don’t, you get one semester of grace before you are not renewed. So this student had had his semester of grace. He floundered a bit his freshman year. Sophomore year, he didn’t apply himself as well and he floundered again. So the scholarship was not renewed for the rest of that year. It was devastating to the student because he did have financial need and he was desperate to continue. It was expected in his family that he would get his degree. They were supportive but he needed the money. We didn’t award it that year and it was a hard thing to do. But he got tutoring help, got the support that he needed to be successful. He worked with his advisors more, worked with his professors more, and turned his GPA around the next semester and it was stellar. It was stellar from then on until he graduated. So of course his scholarship was renewed. He came in and thanked us because it was the kick in the pants that he needed. He is now applying to PA school and has been so successful. I have seen him out in the community and he is just so appreciative of the opportunity that we gave him and that we also helped him get on the right foot and do what he needed to do to be successful. So that is one of my favorite memories.

Amanda: What kind of things do you look for in the application when you receive them?

Ann: Many of them are requiring demonstrated financial need. So an award notification from the school that truly these students need the financial assistance because they qualify for federal or state or institutional money. So there is a need there. We look for that for many of them. A lot of them it is academic performance. What is their GPA? Some of them it is a community involvement. How many activities have they been involved in or what sorts of activities? Leadership roles within those activities are important to many scholarship donors. They want to see a tendency or an aptitude for leadership. For others it is a particular area of study. Are they going to study agriculture? Are they studying horticulture? Do they want to study math or business or STEM majors? It is a particular major or field of study that the donors are looking for, for that particular scholarship. For others, for one in particular, it is strictly merit-based. How strong is the academic profile for the student and are they going to pursue a particular major, which in that case is education. They want the strongest student. They don’t care if they need financial assistance or not, they are rewarding the accomplishments of that particular student who is going to pursue an education major. So it really varies depending on the scholarship.

Amanda: Last question, do you have any advice for the student applicants this year?

Ann: Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application. Be sure to ask the people who need to submit letters of reference for your transcript for you. Give them plenty of time to do that. Take a lot of time to think about what is interesting about you or different about you as you answer your questions. It makes you unique so that the committee can see that as they read applications. Pay attention to detail because the committees notice.

To learn more and apply for scholarships from The Community Foundation, visit:

Questions for Ann may be directed to: [email protected] or give us a call at 540-432-3863.

2023 Scholarships Now Available

2023 Student Scholarships now Available

Harrisonburg-Rockingham students may now apply for college funding from The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County (TCFHR) until April 10, 2023. The majority of scholarships give to current or former residents of Harrisonburg or Rockingham County. Scholarship funds are for tuition and related educational expenses and made directly to the educational institution. In 2022, TCFHR distributed 63 scholarships totaling $229,800. Scholarship awards ranged from $500 to $8,000.

The Community Foundation makes it easy for students to apply, providing an online application for students’ convenience. The online system will allow students to work on application in their own time, save their progress, and return to submit their application.

The Community Foundation works with donors to establish merit based and financial aid based scholarships for high school, community college, and university students. Each scholarship expresses a deep belief in the power of education to help students achieve their academic dreams.

Interested students can go to to learn more and apply by April 10, 2023. For questions, contact Ann Siciliano at [email protected] or 540-432-3863.

About The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County 

TCFHR makes charitable giving easy, acting in the best interest of our donors and partners to facilitate bold philanthropic initiatives for a stronger, healthier community.

Thinking differently about scholarships can make all the difference

According to statistics gathered by the National Scholarship Providers Association, approximately $100 million in scholarship money is left sitting on the sidelines each year, unused. Even though the number of scholarships awarded in the United States has increased overall by more than 45% over the last decade, not enough students are applying. These are sobering statistics, considering that the burden of tuition and student loan debt is weighing heavily on America’s young adults.

This presents a challenge for you and other donors who are interested in supporting education as a charitable giving priority. On one hand, you want to help students get the education they need to thrive in their careers. On the other hand, no one wants to fund a scholarship that goes unused.

The Community Foundation can help. Our team will work with you to establish a tailored charitable giving plan that meets your desire to support education while helping to ensure that the money does not go unused.

First, we’ll help you think broadly about education. Limiting a scholarship fund to four-year institutions could result in a lot of missed opportunities. A college or university is not the only option for post-secondary learning and career readiness. Community colleges, trade schools, vocational programs, and out-of-the-box learning experiences may be a better fit for some students.

Next, our team will help you craft the criteria for the scholarship so that it is not too narrow. In other words, casting a wide net can be important to ensure a strong pool of applicants. Limiting scholarship recipients to one area of study, or very specific high school credentials may mean that there simply will not be enough applicants to fully utilize the scholarship dollars.

Finally, The Community Foundation team is happy to help you with the strategy for getting the word out. Many times, would-be applicants simply are not aware of all the options for scholarships. If scholarship funds don’t adequately promote the opportunities, it may be hard to capture students’ attention as they wade through the vast amount of information available about paying for college.

The team at The Community Foundation is honored to serve as a resource and sounding board as you build your charitable plans and pursue your philanthropic objectives for making a difference in the community. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor to learn how this information might apply to your own situation.

Want to learn more? Call The Community Foundation at 540-432-3863 or email Ann Siciliano at [email protected]!

Community Foundation Scholarship Application Window Open!

The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County (TCFHR) is excited to offer a new online system for scholarship applications. Students may access the new system to determine eligibility to apply for 2022 scholarship awards. TCFHR provides a variety of scholarship opportunities for students seeking to receive financial assistance as they prepare for college or graduate school. TCFHR also has one award specifically for high school juniors (application deadline May 9)!

Some scholarship awards are merit-based, some financial need based, others focus on a particular area of study, while some are specific to high school athletes. Some awards are for students graduating from certain high schools, one for students whose parents are employed at a specified list of golf clubs throughout the United States, and another specifically for high school coaches or athletic directors in the Shenandoah Valley who wish to nominate a track athlete. TCFHR also offers a scholarship specifically for students transferring from BRCC or LFCC to a 4-year university, and one for students doing graduate level work at EMU.

The Community Foundation offers 19 different scholarship opportunities through the new online system. We encourage students, track coaches or athletic directors to explore what might be available to them. Deadline for almost all applications is April 11.

CLICK HERE to determine eligibility to apply!

2018 Scholarship Recipients

The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg & Rockingham County recently distributed 59 scholarship awards. In total, $172,030 was awarded to fifty-nine students from 23 different scholarship funds. Most of the recipients were local high school seniors, although one was a high school junior, another was a graduate student,  and one scholarship provided funding for community college transfer students. Types of scholarships vary in nature – some are financial need based, others are based on academic merit, while some are for students pursuing specific college majors, such as education, horticulture, agriculture, science or math.


The application window for next year’s scholarships opens in October 2018. Visit the scholarship section of our website to see a complete list and learn more about the scholarships we offer. If you are a high school junior, read about an award specifically for you – Award for High School Juniors. Check our Scholarship Frequently Asked Questions for general assistance, or contact Ann in our offices directly (540-432-3863) with specific questions you may have.


Click here to see the list of 2018 Scholarship Recipients.



Early Ace Scholarships Awarded

The Early Ace Scholarship Fund was established to support students graduating from public high schools in the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton and Waynesboro, and the counties of Rockingham, Augusta and Shenandoah. Candidates are students planning to continue their education at a four-year public college in Virginia. Preference is given to students planning to work toward a bachelor’s degree with a science, engineering or business major. Preference may also be given to first generation college students.


The selection committee interviewed students and considered the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated financial need
  • Academic performance
  • Character and drive to succeed
  • Field of study/Chosen career path


Once of the unique components of this scholarship is the requirement to meet and work with a mentor throughout college. The Community Foundation staff works with the recipient’s college/university to assist in the selection of the mentor. Recipients of the Early Ace Scholarship are expected to maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA while being enrolled full-time. Recipients of the award may renew the scholarship for all four years of college, if meeting the criteria for renewal.


2017 Early Ace Scholarships were awarded to:


William Lam (Central High School) – attending Virginia Tech University

Iain Slater (Turner Ashby High School) – attending James Madison University

Nicole Young (Stuarts Draft High School) – attending James Madison University


Community Foundation Receives a $1.7M Gift to Benefit Area Students

Community Foundation To Fund Ag Scholarships

ERIN FLYNN Daily News-Record
PUBLICATION: Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA)

SECTION: Harrisonburg
DATE: October 4, 2016
HARRISONBURG — A couple’s love for agriculture is being passed on to future generations.
The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County announced Thursday that it received a $1.7 million gift from the estate of Thelma Phillips. The gift will be used to create up to 11 scholarships for Valley students interested in pursuing careers in agriculture. It also preserves the legacy of the late Thelma and Bill Phillips.
For nearly 30 years, Bill and Thelma “Curly” Phillips of New Market rose before dawn to milk the cows, harvest vegetables and work their 285 acres in Shenandoah County. Bill Phillips was known for his willingness to help others. “He was the kind of person that, when it snowed, he was always out,” said Chuck Mathias, a friend of the couple. “He would open up our driveway and other people’s driveways.” And Thelma Phillips could often be found in the kitchen making treats.In addition to their generosity, the Phillipses are remembered for their love of farming. “They were just hardworking, good people,” Mathias said.
Thelma Phillips would help her husband in any way possible, whether making meals for the farm hand or drive Bill Phillips around on Sundays so he could see check in on other farms. “Their whole life was around farming, and anything she could do to assist him, she enjoyed doing,” said Revlan Hill, The Community Foundation‘s executive director.
In 1980, Bill Phillips died from a heart attack. Twenty-three years later, his wife established a fund at The Community Foundation to honor him. The foundation acts as a conduit between donors and charitable groups by managing property and money. In 2015, Thelma Phillips died at 86 years old.
Memory Lives On
The couple’s interest in agriculture isn’t being forgotten, however. In fact, their legacy could spark interest in future farmers. Through the scholarship fund, The Community Foundation will award $1,500 scholarships to seniors at Broadway, Harrisonburg and Stonewall Jackson high schools. “She always wanted to do a scholarship for those schools,” Hill said. “Her love for the area, her love for students, her love for farming — that’s what she wanted to support.
“Students can renew the scholarships every year for four years, said Ann Siciliano, the foundation‘s director of program services. Offering a renewable scholarship, Siciliano said, could encourage students who might not be interested in a career in agriculture to reconsider the field.Siciliano said students interested in applying for the scholarship must submit an online application, information about their involvement in agriculture, and a transcript. Applicants will be interviewed. A link to the application can be found on The Community Foundation‘s website, and must be completed by March 30, Siciliano said. The foundation will present the scholarships to the recipients during each high school’s spring ceremony.
Contact Erin Flynn at 574-6293 or [email protected]