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"The scholarships were awarded based on academic achievement, community service and overall character."

The strength of a community depends on the quality of its leaders.

So, to support the development of future leaders in Maricopa and Yavapai counties, Credit Union West has awarded five graduating high school seniors $1,000 scholarships to use toward college costs.

The 2019 Credit Union West Scholarship recipients are Andrea Giacini, Sandra Day O’Conner High School; Samantha Latto, Centennial High School; Sierra McConnell, BASIS Prescott Charter School; Taylor Kluge, Sunrise Mountain High School; and Zackary Zertuche, Prescott High School.

The scholarships were awarded based on academic achievement, community service and overall character. Applicants were required to submit an essay on the role personal finance plays in meeting career goals. Two of the selected recipients — Latto and Zertuche — are Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) students.

“The cost of higher education is rising, and we want to help local high school graduates take this important step in their personal career and economic development,” said Karen Roch, president and CEO of Credit Union West.

The credit union is working to be part of the solution to rising education costs. Across the United States, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2018-19 school year was $9,716 for state residents at public college and $35,676 at private colleges, up from the 2017-18 averages, according to data in an annual survey by U.S. News.

Roch added, “There were so many impressive candidates this year that I’m confident our future is in capable hands.”

This is the sixth year the credit union has offered scholarships to Maricopa and Yavapai County high school graduates.

In a pursuit to help more local graduates continue their education, Credit Union West has provided $22,000 in scholarships since the inception of the program.