By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — After reading the Hub City Times article “Dynamic Duo” about Marshfield High School (MHS) teachers Jim Bokern and Bill Zuiker, Marshfield native Derek Blanchard saw an opportunity to help students in the community.
Blanchard, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., called Bokern and Zuiker to speak with them about the cost of taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Bokern and Zuiker team teach an AP English/AP U.S. History course at MHS. Blanchard is a former student of both teachers.
AP classes are designed to replicate college level course work, and at the end of the course a final test is given. If a student passes that test, he or she earns credit which can be applied at the college level.
The cost of an AP exam, however, has prohibited some students from taking the tests or enrolling in the courses.
Students that are on the free and reduced lunch program, an initiative that provides affordable meals for students that require financial assistance, get the AP exam fee waived by law. Yet, there are still students who are not on the free and reduced lunch program that have trouble affording an AP exam.
In light of this reality, Blanchard decided to start a scholarship fund to assist those students who need help paying for an AP exam. The fund will be named the Blanchard AP Scholarship Fund.
Bokern said that the Blanchard Fund would meet a definite need within the school.
“25 percent of the high school (is) on free and reduced lunch. So those (students) would be covered, but there’s still a gap between free and reduced lunch and other students who really have economic need, and he’s filling that gap,” Bokern said.
The cost of an AP exam is typically $91, but for students eligible for the Blanchard Fund, MHS will waive $9 of that fee, which normally goes toward the cost of the school operating the AP program. The Blanchard Fund covers the remaining $82 of the exam fee.
Bokern and Zuiker looked at data over the past few years and determined that there is a need for about 30 total exams to be covered annually through the Blanchard Fund. At a rate of $82 per test, it would take about $2,500 a year to cover the cost of those 30 exams.
Blanchard will make a personal contribution to the fund of $2,500 annually.
“I’ve been looking for a way to kind of give back and do something close to home,” Blanchard said. “My wife and I both were heavily involved in the AP programs when we were in high school, and we were both able to graduate a year early from college because of what that program did for us.”
Blanchard said he was excited about creating the fund because the scholarship money is not a handout. He contributes to students in need, but then those students must put in the work to pass the exam.
“I’m really big on causes that can help people help themselves,” Blanchard said. “I can give them (the $82) to help take this exam, but they could save a couple thousand dollars in what would be their college expenses.”
Blanchard started the fund through the Marshfield Area Community Foundation (MACF), a local charitable organization that works to connect people to worthy causes in the community.
Amber Leifheit, MACF Executive Director, said she believes the scholarship fund will allow more students access to the advantages of the AP program.
“Derek Blanchard is helping make it possible so all students, if they have made a good faith effort in their AP class, may take the AP test and try to earn the college credit. With the increasing costs of college, this is more important than ever,” Leifheit said.
Blanchard said that his contribution of $2,500 will go a long way toward covering the current need at MHS and that by being part of the MACF, others in the community can donate to the scholarship fund as the need grows.
Blanchard, Bokern, and Zuiker all emphasized that the fund exists strictly as a need-based scholarship and is intended to be accessed only by those students requiring financial assistance in order to take AP exams. Students will be eligible to apply for the scholarship for the current school year.
Both Bokern and Zuiker expressed pride that Blanchard, a former student, has taken up this cause.
“We’re really pleased that this happened,” Zuiker said.
Bokern added that it was particularly gratifying to work with Blanchard because of the previous student-teacher relationship they had.
“When you meet an old friend and you accomplish something that’s really unique, I mean it’s at the highest levels of satisfaction,” Bokern said. “As old teachers to work with our former students and to work as peers to the common good of the community, it is the most satisfying opportunity I could think of.”
To donate to the Blanchard AP Scholarship Fund, send a check to the Marshfield Area Community Foundation at PO Box 456, Marshfield, WI 54449 with “Blanchard AP Scholarship Fund” written on the memo line. You may also donate online at marshfieldareacommunityfoundation.org.