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From Student to Scholar to Educator – A Journey of Impact and Inspiration in Shawano

Kayla Hokenstad’s interest in education started as an elementary student, as a serious “basement” educator in play with her sister. That interest grew as she witnessed the difference her teachers made in the lives of her and her classmates. In 2014, Kayla received the Pearl Smith Future Teacher Scholarship, which helped her pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from UW-Green Bay.

Pearl Smith created the scholarship fund through the Shawano Area Community Foundation in 1999 with the purpose of providing opportunities for Shawano students pursuing an education degree. Since 2001, the fund has provided $71,000 in scholarships to students from Shawano.

“One of the biggest inspirations to advancing my career in education is growing and learning in the community that I went to school in. As a student of the Shawano School District since second grade, and a graduate of Shawano Schools in 2014, I knew this was a place I wanted to come back to and serve. I wanted to be part of the community that helped me become who I am today,” Kayla says.

Feeling that she could make a bigger impact, Kayla returned to school, getting her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Curriculum and Instruction from UW-River Falls. She is now the associate principal of Shawano Middle School.

Kayla, like Pearl Smith, continues to pay it forward in her community, and encourages others to pursue a career in education. “You get to help students be the best version of themselves and see their full potential. Being an educator gives you a direct line to impact the future of our community,” she says.

The Shawano Area Community Foundation is one of five geographic affiliates we partner with in the Fox Valley. Our other partners include the Brillion Area Family of Funds,  Clintonville Area Foundation  Chilton Area Community Foundation and Waupaca Area Community Foundation.

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