Three students earn Grant Gardner Memorial scholarship

Theo Tate

Montgomery County seniors Sierra Sumner and Meredith Rodgers, above center, pose with their Grant Gardner Memorial Scholarship certificates. Pat Moore of the MCAC is on the left. Alice Runzi of the MCAC on the right. THEO TATE PHOTO

The Grant Gardner Memorial Scholarship had its first winner this year.

Make that three winners.

Meredith Rodgers and Sierra Sumner of Montgomery County High School and Bekah Sewell of Wellsville-Middletown High School were named co-recipients of the award, named after a MCHS graduate who worked as an assistant prop master in the entertainment industry before he died in 2019. Each received $500.

Sewell was the first person to receive her award during the W-M Honors Assembly on May 13.

“I am very proud of the community for really recognizing myself as an artist,” Sewell said. “(W-M counselor Ryan) Blaue really recognized me as an outstanding artist. My teachers and all of the people around me really supported me. I can’t wait to follow up my career in art.”

Rodgers and Sumner received their awards at the MCHS Honors Assembly on June 2.

“It means a lot,” Sumner said. “You go to all of these scholarship things and you never hear about an arts scholarship. When (Meredith and I) got the opportunity to sign up for it, it was amazing and I appreciated it. I’m so grateful that I got this opportunity to get $500.”

The award, which is sponsored by the Montgomery County Arts Council, is given to a high school graduate from MCHS and W-M who is interested in a career in art. Originally, the amount of the scholarship was $1,000 and was going to be given to one winner.

However, the Gardner family was impressed with the submissions of Sewell, Rodgers and Sumner, so the amount was increased to $1,500 and was split among the three candidates.

“I want to thank them a lot,” Sumner said. “It’s amazing. I’m so happy and grateful for them.”

Rodgers also received a $500 scholarship from MCAC, giving her a grand total of $1,000 of scholarship money that will help pay for her education. She plans to attend Lindenwood University this fall.

“I feel that ’m so happy that I got an arts scholarship because I wanted to be an artist since I was a little kid,” Rodgers said. “You were always told, ‘It’s just a hobby. You can’t actually go into an art field.’ The fact that we (Sierra and I) are both going into an art field and we got a scholarship for it is absolutely insane. I think that is what makes me the happiest about it is this is an art field scholarship and I got that opportunity.”

Orlana Gardner, Grant’s mother, presented the award to Sewell.

“She was really nice, I loved that she was really open and she was very kind,” Sewell said. “She always had a smile on her face every time I saw her. I really appreciated her coming out and giving me this award.”

Orlana made the proposal of starting the scholarship during an Arts Council board meeting on March 11. The board later voted unanimously to approve the scholarship.

Rodgers said she decided to apply for the award after hearing about it from MCHS art teacher Audra Heimer.

“This was the perfect painting and this was the perfect opportunity,” Rodgers said. “I had to do it.”

Sewell, Rodgers and Sumner got to present their submissions during an Arts Council board meeting on May 6.

Rodgers painted a picture that included a woman with a gold head wrap, being surrounded by bees and beehives. She said she started her project in November.

“That is probably my favorite painting I have ever done,” Rodgers said.

Sumner, who plans to attend St. Charles Community College this fall, did a drawing of a woman with strawberry colored hair.

“I get a lot of references and inspiration from other people with real people,” Sumner said. “People you don’t really tend to look out for. I like using that in my inspiration and my art. I think using all of these different genres and media for art is really interesting.”

Sewell, who plans to attend the Kansas City Art Institute, created a painting that was called “Lips of Paradise.”

“I’m very proud of my work,” Sewell said. “As an artist, sometimes people find it difficult to really like their art. I had so many opportunities and chances. I’m really proud of what I can do and produce. I can’t wait to get out in the field and see what I can do. Moving away to college, I’m really excited to meet new people and really get into the field.”



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