Two local high school seniors each received a $1,250 scholarship to help toward their university tuition through the generosity of Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.

ICBYR is a nonprofit organization that supports military service members, veterans and their families by coordinating services and resources available to them. The ICBYR task force helps raise scholarship money every year through proceeds from its annual golf tournament. The 2020 scholarship recipients, Jocelyn Irwin, a Cambridge-Isanti High School senior, and Kenzie Kutney, a home-schooled senior, received their scholarships on April 15.

“I’m really appreciative of the scholarship. … It really is going to help me through college,” Irwin said.

Irwin attended the scholarship award ceremony with her mother, Kris Campbell, and grandfather, Hugh Irwin. Irwin’s father, who died from cancer in September, used to be a medical specialist in the National Guard.

Irwin plans to attend St. Cloud State University in the upcoming fall semester. The $1,250 scholarship will pay for some of her college tuition in the early childhood education program, she said.

Irwin hopes to become an elementary school teacher, she added.

Kutney attended the scholarship ceremony with her mother, Kelly; and siblings: Deklan, 3; Colin, 5; Kathryn, 8; Aiden, 10; Ella, 12; and Karston, 15. Kutney’s father, Jared, served in Iraq during her young years, she said.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of their love and support,” Kutney said about her parents. “I’m really blessed to have them.”

Kutney has been taking college courses via the post-secondary enrollment option with the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.

“I got all of the prerequisites for nursing done,” she said, explaining her long-term career goal. “And so next year, I’m going to be joining the nursing program at the University, Northwestern, and I’ll be able to graduate with my nursing degree in two years.”

When she first heard that she was selected to receive the scholarship, she teared up, Kutney said.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to get this scholarship, and also, the fact that these people are willing to give this and sacrifice this for people whose family members or themselves were able to sacrifice for our country,” she added. “I just think that’s really, really neat. Because, you know, it is a huge sacrifice … I really respect and value.”

COVID-19 impact on scholarship distribution

ICBYR typically offers four scholarships of about $2,500 per year, but this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force canceled a fundraiser last year. As a result, ICBYR could offer two scholarships and about half the typical amount, said Bruce Danielson, ICBYR scholarship committee member.

Danielson explained that apart from the scholarship, every month the task force votes to provide thousands of dollars to veterans and their families for anything they may need.

“Maybe to have their dentures done,” Danielson said, alluding to what the veterans could use the money for. “Who knows what it is. But we have the money to give them to do that. And maybe they need a ramp on their house, we have ramps that we store, and if they are in a wheelchair, ... we have those.

“When the schools need flags, they contact us and we supply flags to them. So that’s how we support the schools,” he continued.

History and purpose

Isanti County was officially proclaimed as a Beyond The Yellow Ribbon county on Jan. 5, 2010. At that time, Isanti County was the second county in the nation to achieve the honor.

The ICBYR task force meets monthly at the Armed Forces Reserve and Community Center, 505 Spirit River Drive S., Cambridge.

The organization’s goal is to offer a countywide support program that provides information, services, referral and proactive outreach opportunities for service members and their families throughout the deployment cycle.

For more information on Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, visit www.beyondtheyellowribbonisanti.org or call 763-691-4573.

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