The Butte Endowed Scholarship

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Commencement: Your Beginning

June 03, 2019

By Joe McClafferty, President of the Montana Tech Foundation and Vice Chancellor for Advancement and University Relations


Looking back at my years in high school, I recall being confused about the term ‘commencement.’ As a young Butte boy, who grew up on Dexter Street, I remember as my high school years were coming to an end, I thought so did my educational journey.


I didn’t know what my future would hold. I didn’t know what I wanted to be or really what my options were. I had little understanding of the skills I had, or perhaps did not have, but my mind was curious and my eyes were wide open and always in search of opportunities. Fortunately, there was an opportunity at the top of the hill in my hometown. That opportunity was to pursue higher education less than two miles from my family home.


The decision to continue my education at Montana Tech has rewarded me over and over and forever changed my life and altered the trajectory of my family. My experience sparked a passion in me to work hard to provide more opportunities to the youth in our great community. I want more kids to realize their potential and have the opportunity I did up on the hill. 


Over the past 50 years, I have witnessed our local economy decline. Our current poverty numbers are startling. Butte-Silver Bow ranks highest in the state—compared to the largest towns—with a poverty rate of 19.45% in the age bracket of 5 to 17 year olds. In turn, our average income of $40,480 is the lowest of the seven major towns and is $10,000 below the state average.  


These numbers represent a challenge for our community and Butte has never shied away from a challenge. I believe that our economic challenges can be best combatted with education. My wife Therese and I, along with two of our children, have personally benefited from the incredible education Montana Tech provides. Education was the key for families like mine to achieve higher economic outcomes. 


There are tremendous opportunities for the youth of Butte at Montana Tech. But, there are also barriers. Our youth have big dreams. They understand a college education may be the best way to pursue those dreams. Dreams are free but for many, the thought of paying for college seems unrealistic and far out of reach. And so their dreams die.


Montana Tech’s Be the First – Butte Initiative Scholarship invests in Butte students with need, who dream big and exhibit the grit to persevere and succeed with scholarships to cover full tuition and fees. We are realizing dreams with this program and changing our community.


We are very thankful for Montana Resources and the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation’s support and their belief in the kids in Butte. We are also very thankful for the many individuals in our community who believe in education and who have given to this initiative. So far, we have awarded 6 scholarships to students from Butte High and Butte Central. These scholarships are providing a great educational opportunity for Butte kids right now. We are extremely proud of them. The Montana Tech Foundation is working to perpetuate this program through an endowment and have raised more than $400,000 toward a goal of $2.5 million. No gift is too small. Dream believers come in all forms. Help us grow this endowment through financial support and/or advocacy. 


Butte kids need to reach for their dreams, fulfill their hopes, and pursue higher education. We need to advance generations through education.


Montana Tech produces problem-solvers, leaders, healers, and innovators. Many from Butte will be the next.  


The best investment we can make is in the youth in our community. Let’s put more kids on a path to success.

Standard view: 'Be the First' scholarships mean the world to Butte

June 03, 2019
  • Feb 10, 2019

For Butte High senior Grayson Gleason, receiving one of Montana Tech's "Be the First" full-ride scholarships "means the world." Denise Rodrigues, mother of recipient Ariana Rodrigues of Butte Central, said the scholarship is "very life-changing."

That is precisely the idea.

Montana Tech's "Be the First" initiative is aiming to bring the force of education to bear against the issue of poverty — right here in Butte. And as Joe McClafferty, Tech's vice chancellor for advancement and university relations, said last week, "Poverty is the biggest issue we have in town, and poverty can be beaten by education." 


When the two received word of their full-ride scholarships at halftime of the Crosstown Rivalry at the Civic Center on Thursday night, there were few dry eyes in the house.

And when you think of the fact that both of these students plan to use the scholarships to attain nursing degrees, it's easy to see how many times this amazing program will be paid forward, and how much it will help Butte.

The scholarships are the direct result of a $597,000 donation made by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Montana Resources. And Tech is actively building toward a $2 million endowment to ensure the availability of these full-ride scholarships for many years to come. Participation in that effort is welcome and needed.

We couldn't agree more with Mike McGivern of Montana Resources when he said, "Montana Tech has the ability to take people from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and this scholarship is going to give these young people a chance to attend a world-class university, help their families, help themselves and hopefully help Butte, Montana."

We believe that there's not a better educational initiative for Butte, and the return on investment will come very quickly. Congratulations to Rodrigues and Gleason and thanks to Montana Tech and to Montana Resources, the Washingtons and their foundation. And thanks in advance to other companies and individuals in this community who decide they can give financial support to this, the worthiest of causes.

Montana Tech gives two full-ride scholarships to Butte seniors during rivalry game

June 03, 2019

In the middle of an intense boys' basketball game between crosstown rivals Thursday night, fans of Butte's two high schools came together to cheer on a pair of big winners: Aryana Rodrigues, a Butte Central senior, and Grayson Gleason, a Butte High senior.

During halftime at the Butte Civic Center, Amanda Badovinac, Montana Tech's director of marketing and public relations, announced that Rodrigues and Gleason have been awarded full-ride Montana Resources Opportunity Scholarships to Montana Tech.

The scholarships are intended specifically for students who would be the first in their immediate families to graduate from college, and they pay for everything from tuition to books to room and board for four years.

That Rodrigues and Gleason received the awards was a surprise to everyone, including the awardees, and their surprise was evident.

Gleason said he had "not a clue" he'd be getting the award.

Asked what it meant, he said, "It means the world to me."

And not only to him. As he talked, a friend ran up to him, gave him a hug, and cried.

Gleason's friend wasn't the only one shedding tears. Rodrigues's mother Denise got emotional too while talking about the award.

"It's amazing to me, very life-changing," she said.

As for Ariana, who had spent most of the evening behind a drum kit as the lead drummer in the Butte Central High School rock band, she said, "I'm really excited to go to Tech."

Both students plan to use the opportunity to pursue nursing degrees in college.

The scholarships are part of the university's Butte Initiative program, which seeks to provide access to higher education to kids who otherwise might not have it. Funds for the scholarships come from a $597,000 donation made by the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation in conjunction with Montana Resources.

That donation has already funded three former Butte students currently enrolled at Tech — Heather Martin, Josh Hedrick, and Sadie Starcevich — and will keep launching first-generation students to campus while the Montana Tech Foundation continues to work toward establishing a $2-million endowment to provide multiple scholarships a year in perpetuity.

"Montana Tech has the ability to take people from the ordinary to the extraordinary," said Mike McGivern, MR vice president for human resources, on Thursday. "And this scholarship is going to give these young people a chance to attend a world-class university, help their families. Help them and — hopefully — help Butte, Montana."

Joe McClafferty, president of the Montana Tech Foundation and Tech's vice chancellor for advancement and university relations, is a Butte native who says "poverty is the biggest issue we have in town" and who believes "poverty can be beaten by education." And these scholarships, he said, give students the tools they need get that education and overcome their often challenging backgrounds.

"It really gives a kid an opportunity to do something they need to do," McClafferty said.

According to Michael Barth, executive director of the Montana Tech Foundation, the students were chosen for their commitment and desire to better themselves through education, for the grit and perseverance they exhibited during their high school careers, and for epitomizing Butte's hard-working ethic.

Butte Central Principal J.P. Williams said, "I think it's just fantastic that no matter what high school they come from in Butte, they're going to get this opportunity."

Rodrigues is not the only Central student who could benefit from the opportunity, he noted. According to Williams, about four of his school's 24-person senior class would be first-generation college students, if given the chance. 

And one more student from this year's class of graduating Butte students will indeed get that chance. According to Badovinac, one more Montana Resources Opportunity Scholarship will be awarded to a Butte senior later this winter or early this spring.

New initiative grants full scholarships to Montana Tech to local, first-generation college students

June 03, 2019

Ted McDermott

Assistant editor

  • Aug 16, 2018

Heather Martin cried when she found out. Josh Hedrick skipped. Sadie Starcevich was so shocked she was speechless.

Their reactions were different, but the extremity of their responses was similar and the cause was the same: last month, Martin, Hedrick and Starcevich were the first three students to be awarded scholarships to attend Montana Tech at no cost, as part of the university’s new Butte Initiative program.  

The program gives full, four-year rides, plus room and board and money for books, to three students who are from Butte, who would be the first in their family to graduate from college and who have “a real financial need,” according to Montana Tech Foundation Executive Director Michael Barth.

Martin, Hedrick and Starcevich certainly meet those criteria.

Martin says she was removed from her family’s home when she was 16 by the state’s division of Child and Family Services.

Hedrick’s parents have been on disability for much of his life, his only sibling was “severely disabled” in a car crash and he was tasked with “taking care of (his) whole family” while still in high school, he says.

Starcevich's parents didn’t attend college, and she was going to have to patch together scholarships and jobs to get through school.

From those origins, they have worked tirelessly to reach success, eyeing college as a necessary next step to get there, even when it wasn’t clear how they would pay for it.                  

While attending Butte public schools, Hedrick and Martin say they found invaluable support from TRIO, a federal program that assists students from disadvantaged backgrounds through a variety of programs, including Upward Bound, which Martin took part in, and Talent Search, which Hedrick participated in.

According to Martin, the support programs were crucial to her success.

“College was always something I wanted to do, because I wanted to better myself from my situation, and being an Upward Bound student, they always made sure that I knew that college was an option, no matter what,” Martin says. “So having TRIO as a support really made all the difference, because without them, I don’t think I’d be going to college, really. I don’t even know if I would’ve made it through high school.”


But make it through she did, excelling in school while also working various jobs and pursuing a wide range of extracurricular activities, from band to Civil Air Patrol to the cadet program at the Racetrack Volunteer Fire Department, which she became a full-fledged member of when she turned 18. She also found time to become a certified EMT.

With turmoil in her home life, Martin says participation in such activities allowed her to “create kind of my own family.”

As for Hedrick, he took a different route, focusing intently on school and on pitching in around the house, rather than taking on extracurricular responsibilities.  And while his parents didn’t attend college, he says they pushed him to go: “Education was super important to my parents, because they never really got a good education.”


Read more here:

Montana Resources Opportunity Scholarship Created to Provide Full-Ride Scholarships to Butte Students Attending Montana Tech

May 29, 2019

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, in conjunction with Montana Resources, announced a $597,000 gift to Montana Tech to create the Montana Resources Opportunity Scholarship for students who graduate from high schools in Butte.

This gift will provide more opportunities for Butte students to pursue their education by funding three full-ride scholarships for graduates of high schools in Butte to seek any four-year degree program at Montana Tech.

“Montana Resources wouldn’t be what it is today without the support of the Butte community, and we are honored to have the opportunity to help open the door to college for Butte youth” Montana Resources president Rolin Erickson said. To be a recipient of the scholarship, the students must demonstrate need, be a first-generation student, and graduate from a Butte high school. Each award will be up to $16,600 per year and will go toward tuition, books, room and board, and fees, for up to four years.

“This is an incredible gift that will transform the lives of Butte students,” Montana Tech Chancellor Don Blackketter said. “I am grateful to the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and Montana Resources for providing the path for more Butte kids to receive a great education at Montana Tech.”

Montana Resources has been a staple of the Butte economy since 1986, continuing the copper and molybdenum mining tradition that Butte is known for. Montana Resources employs approximately 350 people, many of whom are graduates of Montana Tech.   “As a young kid in Butte, I didn’t always know what my future would look like,” Montana Tech Foundation president Joe McClafferty said. “The decision to attend Montana Tech truly changed my stars. It paved a path for success for myself and my wife Therese, which flowed down to our three children. I would like to thank Montana Resources and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation for believing in a Montana Tech education and for providing kids in Butte the opportunity to improve their lives by educating them at the top university in the nation for creating the greatest benefit to the country’s economic progress.”

It is vital to the success of Montana Resources and the Butte community that Montana Tech produces highly educated, skilled workers who will continue the mining tradition into the future.    "The Institute for Educational Opportunities at Montana Tech is proud to be a partner in this wonderful scholarship program,” Executive Director Amy Verlanic said. “Our Upward Bound and Talent Search programs at Butte High School serve as a perfect recruiting tool for first generation Butte students building relationships early on and helping students navigate the college entrance process. In addition, our Student Support Services program will be there to support them throughout their undergraduate career at Montana Tech and ensure they have the resources needed to be successful. The scholarship isn't just about paying tuition, but ensuring the scholar has support from as early as their high school entry completely through college graduation."   The Montana Tech Foundation will seek to permanently secure this opportunity for students of promise who have financial need by building an endowment through other gifts. For more information, contact the Montana Tech Foundation at 406-496-4276 or visit

For more details about the many charitable works of The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, visit For more information about Montana Resources, visit

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