STB: Brown Co. Sheriff's Office uses offender registry funds for scholarships

Published: May. 14, 2019 at 4:37 PM CDT
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On March 1, 2000, Todd Michael Widman gave the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of Brown County.

4 years ago, the Brown County Sheriff's Office started the Memorial Scholarship Fund to honor law enforcement like Widman and give back to the community.

"We just wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Sheriff John Merchant said. “Also foster the kids in the community and maybe give them an option of the ability to go to college.”

After checking with the state, the sheriff's office was able to use the offender registry fund to create the scholarships for Hiawatha and Horton high school seniors.

"We have between 70 and 80 registered offenders in our county,” Merchant said. “They have to register at $20 per quarter which is 80 dollars apiece.”

Merchant said the need for the scholarship had grown so much, they now award one $1000 scholarship and two $500 scholarships per school.

To apply for the scholarship, students fill out the application form and write an essay, but unlike many other scholarships, grade point average is not the most important thing.

"The kids that are getting the 4.0 and they're ranked 1 or 2 in their class, they're probably not going to have problems receiving scholarships,” J.D. Clary, Public Resource Safety Officer, said. “We're looking for those kids that would struggle with some of those [and] that have a need."

The recipients also get the money in hand and can use it in whatever way they may need to help them with college.

"We write a check that goes to the student, the recipient of the scholarship,” Clary said. “They can use that for gas money, to buy clothes before they go to school or any other cost associated with college.”

This year's recipients will be announced Thursday, May 16.

Sheriff Merchant wants to challenge other sheriff's offices around the state to try and do something similar to give back to their communities.

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