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Applications for Morelli STEM scholarship open

Credit Morelli Foundation

A scholarship honoring a late Park City High School graduate is accepting applications. The legacy that sponsors it also wants to expand a program to help students with learning disabilities.

The Joseph Morelli Legacy Foundation has been helping students who struggle with dyslexia and reading comprehension since Morelli died in a car accident seven years ago. High school and college students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields can apply for a scholarship through February.

Founder Barbara Wirostko says it’s about ensuring opportunities for gifted students like Morelli who have difficulty learning in the traditional classroom style.

“These kids can go unrecognized until they’re struggling, and suddenly they’re labeled, as a high school student, as being lazy, not trying enough, distracted,” she says. “But a lot of times, these students do have the underlying challenges of dyslexia and reading comprehension - they can’t follow in the classroom, they can’t read the notes, they can’t read the blackboard.”

Last year, the foundation received over 200 applications and awarded 54 scholarships. It awarded over $90,000, with students getting anywhere from $500 to $2,500.

It’s funded by donors including foundations and larger organizations in the Park City area and beyond.

At Montana State University, the school Morelli was attending when he died, the foundation has taken the support a step further by starting a mentorship program. Foundation board member Anne Ivanhoe says it pairs older scholarship recipients with freshmen to help them acclimate to college.

“Transitioning from being a high school senior to being a college freshman is a huge transition for most kids,” Ivanhoe says. “For kids who have dyslexia, it’s that much more challenging because they have to get their accommodations, they may have had social issues in the past, so the mentors help them with anything and everything they need.”

Ivanhoe says mentors help new students by helping them advocate for themselves. She says that can take the form of guiding them to communicate their needs to professors.

As teachers don’t always know the challenges dyslexic students face, she says “educating the educators” through the mentorship program is part of the foundation’s advocacy initiative.

To apply for the scholarship or learn more about the foundation, visit its website at web address morelli.foundation.