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Cycling race awards scholarships

by HEIDI DESCH
Whitefish Pilot | July 14, 2021 1:00 AM

A gravel cycling event set to hold its inaugural event in August has already fulfilled part of its mission by awarding $10,000 in scholarships to four women pursuing post-secondary education.

The Last Best Ride is designating a portion of its racing proceeds, along with funds raised by race organizers Jess Cerra and Sam Boardman, for scholarships.

Creating the scholarship fund was important to Cerra because of the support she received from the community when she graduated from Whitefish High School. She also relied on the support of WHS guidance counselor Barbara Mansfield, who recently retired after 44 years, thus the scholarship has been named the Barbara Mansfield Champion Scholar Award in her honor.

Cerra says as a student from a low-income family the community scholarships, along with the support of Mansfield, were instrumental in her ability to graduate from the University of Montana and later go onto graduate school.

“This is a small community where people look out for each other,” Cerra said. “When I thought about those scholarships and the impact it had on my life and also an educator that really cared about me, I wanted to provide that.”

A goal of the Barbara Mansfield Champion Scholar Award is to have a diverse and inclusive group of recipients.

Whitefish students who earned the awards are Makenna Woody, who plans to attend Montana State University, and Ali Hirsch, who plans to attend Emory University. Glacier High School students who earned awards are Briseida Yali Alcaraz, who plans to attend Flathead Valley Community College, School of Nursing, and Adison Powell, who plans to attend Montana State University.

Cerra says she’d like to see the scholarship grow and has plans to expand the program to include mentorship programs.

“The idea is to grow on this and give more or bigger scholarships,” Cerra said. “I wanted them to know there are people who are rooting for them and they are not alone.”

The Last Best Ride has guaranteed that 20% of the race proceeds would be dedicated to funding scholar awards for financially-qualified women pursuing post-secondary education who are from Whitefish or surrounding communities.

In bringing a large event to Whitefish, Boardman and Cerra say it’s been their mission to ensure that The Last Best Ride would be a welcoming and inclusive event with an equitable start-line with representation of all ages, races, genders, and experience-levels.