Persistence pays off for Samsung scholarship winner

Lita Gislason - Contributed photo
Lita Gislason
— image credit: Contributed photo

Submitted by Minnie Knych, Friday Harbor American Legion Auxiliary

American Legion Auxiliary unit 163 of Friday Harbor is proud to announce that Lita Gislason of Friday Harbor is the recipient of a Washington state Samsung Scholarship for 2012.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available to high school juniors who participate in and complete the Boys State or Girls State programs and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership.

Students who qualify for and are interested in the Samsung Scholarship must submit a completed application to Girls or Boys State staff upon their arrival to Boys State or Girls State.

Recipients of the scholarship may use the funds for undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her school and community activities, academic record and financial need.

Lita, a senior at Friday Harbor High School, attended Girls State during the summer of 2012.  Her grandfather, Derry Gislason, served in the Air Force as a pilot during the Korean War. He passed away in 2010.

Like many Korean War veterans, Derry Gislason he did not discuss his experiences in the war with his children or grandchildren. However, according to Lita, “He was definitely affected by being in the Air Force...”

She says, “In my father’s family, he was the advisor, negotiator, logic and voice of wisdom. He was the strongest man I knew.”  

For Lita, the scholarship application process was complicated by a computer glitch.

On the night before she was to leave for Girls State, Lita finished her essay by 5 p.m., and left for work at her part-time job at the Cask and Schooner. When she returned from work at 11 p.m. she planned to print the application, but discovered that the essay had disappeared in the computer.

“I spent a long time trying to retrieve it, and finally decided to re-write everything.”

By 1 a.m., her father reminded her that she would have to catch the red-eye ferry the next morning and recommended that she forget about the application.

“I really wanted to finish it,” she says, so she persevered and completed the application at about 3 a.m. Lita then got a brief nap before rising again at 4:30 a.m. to catch the early ferry for the drive to Central Washington University, the site of Girls State.     

As required by Girls State, Lita brought the Samsung scholarship application with her to the week-long training session. On the third day there, she was informed that she would receive a Samsung state scholarship and that her application would be forwarded to the competition for the National Samsung Scholarship for a possible additional award.

In order to qualify to send the application to the next level, Lita had to call her grandmother, Cindy Gislason, to find a copy of her grandfather’s military records. The records had been lost but, fortunately, her resourceful grandmother contacted the funeral home that still had a copy of Derry’s military records and faxed them for her application.

Lita has applied to several colleges but has not decided which to attend yet. She will be pursuing a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in anthropology.

Girls State is a nationwide Americanism and government training program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. The honor of being a Girls State representative is bestowed each year on a high school junior who has demonstrated good citizenship and leadership qualities and who will make the commitment to return to school as a senior high school student to use what was learned during Girls State for the good of the school and community.

This program allows teens the opportunity to spend a week as self-governing citizens and informs them about the duties, privileges, rights, and responsibilities of American citizenship. Through participation, delegates may better understand the functioning of their government and the responsibilities they will assume when they become adults.


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