Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota honor some of the area’s most impressive high school seniors each year through the Scholar of the Week program. Every week throughout the school year, the region's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, in partnership with Dakota News Now, select a Scholar of the Week who sets an example of hard work and high academic standards. The weekly winners are featured on Dakota News Now and each student receives a $250 award from their local electric co-op.
Each spring, the region's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives host the Scholar of the Year banquet to honor the year's weekly award recipients. At that yearly banquet, Touchstone Energy representatives draw for the winners of one $1,000 scholarship and two $500 scholarships from among the year’s weekly award recipients. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s banquet was cancelled. Instead, the news team at Dakota News Now along with Chris Studer, Chief Member and Public Relations Officer at East River Electric Power Cooperative, drew for the three scholarship recipients on live television during the 6 p.m. broadcast on May 17. East River Electric is the wholesale power provider for 24 distribution electric co-ops and one municipal electric system in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota and oversees the Scholar of the Week program on behalf of its members.
Zariah Zevenbergen, a senior at Elk Point-Jefferson High School within Union County Electric Cooperative’s service area, was selected as the Touchstone Energy Scholar of the Year and received a $1,000 scholarship. Matthew Hettich, a senior at Ipswich High School within FEM Electric’s service area, and Carson Schmidt, a senior at Summit High School within Whetstone Valley Electric’s service area, were both selected to receive $500 scholarships.
Touchstone Energy is a network of over 720 electric cooperatives from around the country – including the electric cooperatives in our region – who are united in the four touchstone values of integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are local, active members of their communities, dedicated to building our communities and improving our way of life. The cooperatives have sponsored the Scholar of the Week program since 2002. In that time Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have awarded over $90,000 in scholarships to nearly 600 students as part of the Scholar of the Week program.