News & Events

August 4, 2020

Meet the PHF Scholars Class of 2020

It was July when Lela Rautiola started her first real job – working as a Licensed Practical Nurse at UP Health System – Portage. It’s pretty astonishing for an 18-year-old who just graduated from high school, but she has a plan, and this is just the beginning of it.

Lela Rautiola a Nurse from Chassell“It was a little scary a first, but it’s exciting,” Rautiola said of starting her nursing career. “I’m already interacting with the patients quite a bit and gaining a lot of experience.”

Rautiola is one of 28 students who make up the Portage Health Foundation (PHF) Scholars Class of 2020. The Chassell High School graduate received a $1,000 PHF General Scholarship and a $1,000 PHF Health Career Scholarship.

“I was so excited when I heard I got those scholarships,” she said. “It decreases the stress level a lot, especially because I was so busy in high school with volunteering, taking classes and soaking up whatever professional opportunities I could, that I didn’t have a lot of jobs.”

PHF announced it was accepting applications for scholarships in January, including six different scholarships. Three of them were available to each school in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties. The others were from the collective area. A group made up of PHF Grants Management Committee reviewed the applications with names redacted and awarded the scholarships.

“I want to thank the committee who evaluated these applications,” PHF Grants Management Coordinator Mary Jo Munch said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with the students who were awarded scholarships. We wish them success in their continued education.”

For Rautiola, that means enrolling in Gogebic Community College (GCC) this fall for a two-year nursing degree. She knocked out a bunch of classes through dual enrollment and already has her eye on making sure she completes the classes she needs to so she’ll be able to enter an online RN-to-BSN program after completing her work at GCC.

“I’m going to continue to push myself,” she said. “I love this clinic position, and I love caring for patients and helping people.”

Scholarship recipients are studying a wide variety of topics all over the country, including students attending Finlandia University, Gogebic Community College, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University, Penn Foster College, St. Olaf College, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, University of Pennsylvania, Western Michigan University and Yale University. Below is a list of all students and the scholarship they received.

PHF Scholars Class of 2020

Joseph B. Kirkish, Ph.D., Educational Scholarship ($5,000)

  • Samuel Oja
  • Yvonne Wang

Joseph B. Kirkish, Ph.D., Congregational Educational Scholarship ($5,000)

  • Mary Desrochers

Joseph B. Kirkish, Ph.D., Phi Kappa Tau Educational Scholarship ($5,000)

  • Leif Olson

PHF General Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Holly Rogers
  • Lela Rautiola
  • Louise Carlson
  • Gracie Witt
  • Colton Salani
  • Irene Ra
  • Matthew Halonen
  • Alyssa Burton
  • Luke Soumis
  • Terrence Reed

PHF Health Career Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Holly Rogers
  • Carolyn Mattila
  • Lela Rautiola
  • Cody Erickson
  • Paige Berglund
  • Ellie Sturos
  • Rachael Hall
  • Dayna Johnson
  • Mya Ghazale
  • Addison Mattson
  • Lydia Strasser

PHF / KEDA Career Technical Scholarship ($1,000)

  • Samantha Plante
  • Louise Carlson
  • Trace Hammerstrom
  • Raili Therrian
  • Sara Muonio
  • Joslynn Perala

Thank You Notes from #PHFScholars

Many of the students mailed in thank you notes over the last two months. Below is text from those notes.

“I’m very thankful to be the recipient of your 2020-21 Joseph B. Kirkish Educational Scholarship. Such an amount will greatly benefit my collegiate path, and I cannot thank you enough. This award is such an excellent opportunity for the active members of our fraternity and an awesome legacy for Joe K.”

“Thank you for taking the time to review my scholarship application and for awarding me funds that will help me to pay for my education. I have decided to attend St. Olaf College – which will provide me with tons of new and exciting opportunities over the next four years! I am so excited to move into my new home in Northfield, MN this coming August. I plan to study chemistry, neuroscience and Spanish.”

“Thank you for giving me this scholarship. I feel honored to receive this scholarship. It will help me pay for some of my nursing education.”

“Thank you for the generous scholarship! I am sincerely honored to be selected as this year’s recipient. I plan to attend Gogebic Community College in the fall and pursue a nursing degree. This scholarship has helped me feel a sense of financial security, allowing me to focus on my studies more.”

“I would like to thank you for the PHF / KEDA career and technical scholarship. It will help me pay for the schooling I will need, so I can reach my goal of becoming a certified veterinary technician. This fall I am going to enroll in Penn Foster College online veterinary technician program. Thank you for helping me reach my goal.”

“Thank you very much for selecting me for the health career educational scholarship. This will help reduce my bill at Michigan Tech and I greatly appreciate it.”

“I was very happy to learn that I was a recipient of the Portage Health Foundation Educational Scholarship. I am writing to thank you for your generous financial support toward my higher education.”

“Thank you for awarding me the health career educational scholarship. It will be very helpful to me as I pursue my degree in nursing at Finlandia University this fall.”

"Thank you so much for selecting me as a recipient of the PHF Health Career Scholarship! I plan to attend Michigan State University for pre-nursing. This scholarship will generously help my financial needs as I continue my education."

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your very generous financial support towards my higher education. Growing up in a less privileged community has not only offered financial and academic challenges, but has also helped me realize the value of college education. 
Your scholarship has opened a door and the prospect of a brighter future and will play a key role in shaping me into a successful person in the future. This fall I am attending Northern Michigan University to major in clinical sciences to become a radiographer. The financial assistant you have provided will be of great help to me in paying my educational expenses, and it will allow me to concentrate more of my time on studying.
Awarding me both the PHF Health Career Educational Scholarship and the PHF Educational Scholarship has lightened my financial burden, which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school, learning. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me."

"I am writing to express my sincere gratitude and appreciativeness for being awarded the Portage Health Foundation Scholarship. I was very surprised and excited to learn I was selected to receive this generous scholarship. I am thankful for this scholarship as it will be very helpful as I begin my final year of the RN program at Gogebic Community College. I will be able to focus more time on my studies and practicing skills in order to learn all that i need to be a competent and excellent nurse. I'm looking forward to this upcoming school year and can't wait to learn all the new information! I greatly appreciate this scholarship opportunity. I will continue to work hard and remain focused on my studies in order to successfully graduate and start my new career as a registered nurse! I will also look for ways in which I can volunteer and give back to the community as I believe being involved is a great way to help our community grow and be a success."

"I cannot say this enough, but thank you so very much. You have made a huge impact on my life and my financial situation. I can now focus on the most important aspect of school. I commit to do well with the scholarship and make you proud. During the long nights of studying and the early morning of class, I will have a smile on my face knowing that one day I will make a difference in someone's day. Thank you again."

"Knowing that without this scholarship, it is likely I could not have completed my nursing degree, your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me."


You can learn more about scholarship opportunities at Portage Health Foundation by visiting If you know one of the scholarship winners, we invite you to share this story on your social media outlets with hashtag #PHFscholars to congratulate them for earning this funding.