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Rewarding effort: Cooperative scholarships making a difference

By Adam McKnight

The Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) and all its member cooperatives around the state hold dear the seven cooperative principles. The AIEC and Clay Electric Co-operative hold “Concern for Community” to be particularly important. The scholarship programs at the local and statewide level are a way that we can directly help the members of our community. 

The AIEC awards 12 $2,000 scholarships each year. Six scholarships are awarded to high school seniors who are children of a member of an Illinois electric cooperative. Four scholarships are reserved for member’s children enrolling full-time at a two-year Illinois community college. One scholarship, the Earl W. Struck Memorial Scholarship, goes to a high school senior who is the son or daughter of an Illinois electric cooperative employee or director. One scholarship, the LaVern and Nola McEntire Lineworker’s Scholarship, is awarded to a student to attend the lineworker’s school conducted by the AIEC in conjunction with Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.

One of the four community college scholarships was awarded to Brady Clark of Louisville. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Brady (digitally) to talk about his future and the small part that Clay Electric Cooperative and the AIEC get to play in his future successes. 13533-001

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your community?

My name is Brady Clark and I have lived in Clay County all my life. I attend North Clay High School and will be graduating in the Class of 2020. My hobbies are hanging out with family and friends, showing cattle and goats, and hunting. Louisville is a great hometown and rural community because of the people within it. The people support each other in times of need and join together in times of joy.

How did you find out about the scholarship?

I found out about this scholarship at the college fair at Flora High School. I remember walking in and seeing the booth for this scholarship. I took the pamphlet and added it to the college scholarships I wanted to pursue. I urge all students to attend college fairs because you never know what opportunities are waiting for you. 

What have you learned about the cooperative business model since applying for the scholarship and youth tour opportunities?

Coming from a family that is a member of three different cooperatives, I have always had curiosity about what cooperatives were growing up. I have learned a lot about the cooperative business model. It made me realize and really appreciate the resources we have like electricity, water, telephone and internet. The cooperative business model allows communities to come together and form a cooperative business for what the community needs. 

What are your collegiate plans?

My educational plans and goals are to become a veterinarian. In my county, veterinary care is limited for large animals. I plan to start that path at Lake Land College studying agriculture. Next, transfer to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to obtain my bachelor’s degree in animal science. Once I obtain my bachelor’s degree, my goal is to attend the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and receive my doctorate in veterinary medicine. 

What are your plans after college?

After I get my doctorate, I plan to work at a veterinary clinic near my hometown to gain experience within the field. After a few years and knowledge gained, I would like to come back home to start my own practice in Clay County.

What is your favorite thing about living in rural Illinois?

My favorite thing about living in rural Illinois is being able to be engaged with the great outdoors that most people in cities have never had the pleasure to enjoy. Another aspect I love about rural Illinois is the community because everyone around here has hometown values, which I am grateful to have grown up around. 

What is the hardest thing about living in rural Illinois?

The hardest thing about living in rural Illinois is the fact that the people in communities like mine and many others are overlooked in political situations and for resources for our local communities. 

What advice can you give to students that plan on applying for scholarships and prepare for college next year?

The best advice I can give to students preparing for college and applying for scholarships is to be active and record your invested time in clubs or community service. This advice was given to me by my school counselor as it is the best advice by far. This is great advice because knowing all of what you did and putting it into scholarships and college applications will keep you one step ahead of most people.