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Former Tualatin resident sets up scholarship fund for TTSD students

Steelman Family Foundation seeks to give back to community.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE STEELMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION - Rene Steelman has set up a scholarship fund in honor of her son TJ, who has cerebral palsy.René Steelman hasn’t lived in Tualatin for a decade, but that isn’t stopping her from helping local students.

The newly formed Steelman Family Foundation grants scholarship awards to students in the Tigard-Tualatin School District who are bound for college or a vocational training program.

Steelman has six children. Her oldest son was among the first students to graduate from Tualatin High School in the 1990s. Her youngest was born with severe disabilities and has cerebral palsy, rendering him wheelchair-bound and unable to speak.

But despite his disabilities, Steelman said, TJ was a valued member of the school community in Tualatin.

“Our youngest son went to Bridgeport Elementary (School) and went to Hazelbrook Middle School and then went to Tualatin High School,” Steelman said. “And he was very welcomed there and treated amazing.”

Steelman moved to Vancouver, Wash., about 10 years ago, but said she still feels compelled to give back to the community that supported her son.

“Our family has a special place in our heart for the Tigard-Tualatin School District,” she explained.

The foundation is new, Steelman said.

“We just got all the paperwork done at the end of last year,” she said.

To apply, students submit a 500-word essay on the topic of serving children with disabilities.

As many as three scholarships of $1,500 apiece will be awarded from the Steelman Family Foundation by May 15, 2017. Applications are due seven months earlier, on Oct. 15.

While TJ had the opportunity to be placed in a tri-county program for children with severe disabilities, Steelman said, the family chose to send him to Bridgeport Elementary — and didn't regret the decision.

“We just could not have been happier,” she said. “His entire school process was so wonderful. … Everything that our other kids were involved in, he was involved in as well. And all the kids really welcomed him.”

Scholarship applications must include a resume, a transcript and two reference letters, along with a completed application form and the 500-word essay. They should be sent to the Steelman Family Foundation at 17805 N.E. 84th Cir., Vancouver.

More information and the application form are available on the foundation's website.

The foundation is also holding its first Walk and Roll 5K from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 13 at Salmon Creek Park, 1112 N.E. 117th St., Vancouver. Participants in the 5K are encouraged to “roll on some kind of wheels,” such as roller blades or scooters, if they are not wheelchair users.

By Mark Miller
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