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BRATTLEBORO — A $10,000 “Jenn Murphy Scholarship” will be awarded to a Brattleboro Union High School senior, this year and for the next five years, with the funding coming from an anonymous donor who was motivated by the momentum of the Jenn Murphy Scholarship Facebook Group. The money will be going to the newly formed nonprofit, the Jenn Murphy Scholarship Foundation.

The Jennifer Murphy Scholarship was started 25 years ago by high school friends of Jennifer Murphy and was, at the time, a $1,000 award. As the funds ran out eventually, two of Jenn’s best friends growing up, Emily Petit and Stephanie Bonin, recently co-founded a new scholarship, the Jenn Murphy Scholarship. It was created for a 15-year-old girl, Jenn Murphy, whose life was tragically cut short but whose memory will continue to live on through this scholarship in her name. Jenn was known as a talented dancer, taking classes at the Brattleboro School of Dance, and a fierce athlete, becoming a Southern Vermont League girls cross country champion her freshman year, qualifying for the New England championships.

An entire small online community has come together, and continues to build — currently over 300 Jenn Murphy Scholarship supporters in fact, spanning multiple high school classes and fanning out through siblings and even parents and teachers at BUHS.

“Not everyone is able to give during these difficult times, but everyone is supporting in their own ways that they can, including commenting and conversing to keep it fun in the Facebook Group,” said Petit, president of the Jenn Murphy Scholarship Foundation and Jenn’s best friend growing up. “We all want the future generations that walk the halls of BUHS to know that we are extremely proud of them and that we are dedicated to helping them defer the costs of higher education, as much as we possibly can, in honor of Jenn.

“Clearly I am just one of Jenn’s many friends. Just one of hundreds who knew and loved her. She has touched so many lives in her short time with us, and now, almost 30 years later, she has brought us all back together again in the most magnificent and meaningful way, with laughs galore! How very Jenn!”

With the help and support of BUHS retired teacher and coach Sherryl Libardoni, who also helped with the same group 25 years ago through the Student Council, the fundraising for the Jenn Murphy Scholarship began on Murphy’s birthday, Nov. 9, 2020. The GoFundMe campaign had an initial goal of $6,000. By Thanksgiving, the community had raised double that. By Christmas it broke $15,000 and just after the New Year it reached $20,000. Then, an “anonymous” donor came forward with $50,000, to be awarded in $10,000 scholarship awards, starting this year, and every year for the next five years.

Petit said scholarship organizers are “blown away” by the support in the community, “and the $10,000 scholarship for the next five years, made by an anonymous donor, was a dream come true.”

The entire endeavor, from start to finish, is catalogued in detail on Facebook, in the Jenn Murphy Scholarship Group, which regularly highlights old clippings from the Reformer as well as personal photographs, music and even Far Side funnies. Dialogues spring to life in multiple threads in this new online community, as memories are shared as well as photos accompanying the accomplishments of amazing athletes, artists, musicians and humanitarians in our community, that are so selflessly supporting this scholarship.

The scholarships will be presented annually, at the end of each school year, to BUHS seniors who have demonstrated extraordinary accomplishments in their extra-curricular endeavors, as well as sharing a commitment to “living in the spirit of Jenn.”

“Living in the spirit of Jenn” means showing a dedication to humanitarianism and to strengthening Brattleboro’s community and/or the communities abroad. “Living in the spirit of Jenn” means demonstrating outstanding perseverance and commitment to living outside oneself, with a determination towards bettering the world around you. “Living in the spirit of Jenn” means exuding the civic-minded compassion which makes our little slice of world, the town of Brattleboro, so unique and unforgettable.

The Jenn Murphy Scholarship Foundation is still welcoming donations through GoFund Me: https://gofund.me/7ae1c8ab

The Jenn Murphy Scholarship website will be live on Thursday, Jan. 21, with the applications and directions for applying: JennMurphyScholarship.com. Application information will also be made available at Brattleboro Union High School.

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