Austin Stemen had a photo on his phone that said, “Don’t stop until you’re proud”. Now, a new scholarship fund at the Sturgis Area Community Foundation will carry that motto as it celebrates Austin's legacy through helping local students pursue skilled trades programs.
Austin Stemen was born and raised in Sturgis. He graduated from Sturgis High School in 2018, and just four months later purchased a home with his savings. He was always a hard worker who loved building things and working with his hands. Austin was a “fixer” – he looked at things in a different way than many of his peers. He always wanted to know what made things “tick”. He loved to analyze how to take things apart and put them back together.
Despite battling an illness and undergoing several major surgeries before and after graduation, Austin kept working and attending school. He found it impossible to stay still for long. He was a true outdoorsman and loved being active outside – hunting, fishing, and walking in the woods. He had planned on attending school to be a Utility Lineman, but that became impossible after a surgery so he enrolled in Kellogg Community College where he studied electrical engineering while working full-time at Michigan Tool Works.
A Passion for the Trades
Austin's love for the trades began at a young age. In 7th grade, he won the Michigan Industrial Technology Education Society (MITES) 1st place Regional Award and placed 3rd in State for his Wood Coffee Table with a glass display top. In 8th grade he won the first-place Regional and the State Grand Award for Excellence in Craftmanship for his outdoor wrought iron firepit. Later, at the high school level, he continued classes in Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), Manufacturing Technology and the Building Trades programs. During his senior year, he volunteered as a mentor for the high school Robotics team and dedicated time to mentoring younger students in manufacturing technology classes.
"Austin was a giver so we know he would be very proud to have a way to “pay it forward” and help others achieve their dream," shares Tina Stemen, Austin's mother. "We want Austin’s memory to live on and we know there are other young men and women who have the same interests and goals in life that may just need that little extra boost that a Trade School Scholarship could provide."
With that in mind, the Stemen family worked with the Sturgis Area Community Foundation to establish a permanent scholarship fund in Austin's memory - The Austin Stemen Scholarship for the Trades.
Scholarships are now available for Sturgis High School seniors who intend to enter a trade program after high school including, but not limited to, programs in electrical, plumbing, respiratory therapy, dental hygiene, auto mechanics, cosmetology, and more. The fund's goal is to give one or more scholarships per year and to help make students aware of their options. Eligible students can apply online at www.sturgisfoundation.org/scholarships. Applications are due April 1.
"We were truly blown away by the outpouring of love and support that we received when we lost Austin and then when we established the scholarship fund – we were even more amazed," says Tina. "This reinforced our belief that there are many people like our son whose mission in life is to make this world better than they found it."
If you are interested in contributing to the Austin Stemen Scholarship for the Trades, donations are tax-deductible and can be mailed to the Sturgis Community Foundation or made online at www.sturgisfoundation.org.
As a resource and leader in local philanthropy, the Sturgis Area Community Foundation seeks to connect local residents like you to meaningful projects and causes you care about. If you are interested in learning more about the needs of your local community or opportunities for giving through the Community Foundation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (269) 659-8508.