In the community

Vale graduate claims big-time scholarship

Vale graduate Josh Andersen was one of the 20 students selected for the $40,000 GE Reagan Foundation scholarship. He is now a student at the College Idaho, where he was awarded the Presidential Scholarship. (Photo submitted by Lynette Andersen)

VALE – It’s 8 a.m. on a Tuesday in July. Most teenagers are sleeping in, or they’re just getting the day started.

Joshua Andersen, 18, wide awake and focused, diligently attends to a truck loaded with wheat. 

For him, it’s just another day of work as a warehouseman at Mid Columbia Producers in Biggs Junction during the wheat harvest.

The Vale native recognizes the importance of hard work and seizing opportunities. 

These are values that were instilled in him by his parents from a young age.

And that ethic has put him in rare company – one of 20 high school graduates to be awarded 20 GE Reagan Foundation scholarships worth $40,000. 

Nearly 16,000 applied, according to the Reagan Foundation website.

Andersen is the sixth generation of his family to live in Oregon. 

His mother’s relatives settled in Sherman County. 

That’s how he ended up working his second year in a wheat farm at Biggs Junction for this summer.

“I weigh the trucks when they come in with their load of wheat,” said Andersen, who works 12-hour days. “After we weigh the wheat, we dump it into a pit that takes it up into a machine called a leg where the distributor will segregate wheat into low and high protein.”

Growing up on a farm outside Vale, Andersen devoted most of his youth to 4-H projects, sports, student council and other community leadership roles.

“My parents encouraged me to have as many opportunities as possible,” said Andersen, whose experiences have allowed him to see the country – and the world.

His passion for agriculture rooted in his family’s background in farming and ranching led him to Mongolia, where he shared with other missionaries and nomadic herders his knowledge of agricultural techniques and gave them encouragement.

“We gave support and encouragement to missionaries that were already there,” said Andersen, who went to Mongolia with his father in the fall of 2016. “And we worked with native people and gave them ideas and advice on more sustainable practices.”

Andersen learned about the Mongolia opportunity through a family friend, Dustin Baker, who travels to Mongolia every two years. 

Baker had organized the Andersen’s trip and accompanied them during the 2-week stay.

Aside from that, Andersen made the most of his experience at Vale High School, participating Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership, National Honor Society, student council, wrestling, cross country and track. He now will attend the College of Idaho to study political economy. 

He chose the liberal arts college for its unique PEAK curriculum that allows students to major in one area and minor in three separate students. 

“It’s hard to explain PEAK, but students are able to gain experience and literacy in four academic and professional areas,” he said. Andersen applied for scholarships during his senior year and earned enough scholarship money to pay for his first year of college.

The Reagan Foundation scholarship will be a big help.

He learned of the award while he was in class at Vale High School – the final period of the day in late April.

He got an alert on his phone, showing that he received an email from the foundation. 

Andersen called his mom, his dad, and then Vale Principal MaryJo Sharp. 

“And then I called other teachers that have been helping me with scholarships,” he said.

“It was pretty gratifying. I had put in a lot of work to it. So it was just amazing to know that there were a lot of influential people who recognized what I’m doing.”

Andersen said he hopes to one day impact agricultural policy. 

He prefers a role where he can flex his leadership skills and commitment to the people in rural areas.

“I kinda know what I want to do in college,” he said. “So I work hard to put myself in the best position that I can. When opportunities arise, I just try to go for them.”

Teachers and administrators describe Andersen as a smart student, who works hard and has a great heart.

“He’s an excellent student,” said Sharp, who assisted Andersen in the applying for the Reagan scholarship. “He was the salutatorian of the graduating class.”

Sharp said she was impressed by Andersen’s leadership qualities. 

“He was one of those kids who saw a need and sought assistance to give need,” she said. “He always seems to find a solution.”

“Josh was very academic and high achieving,” said Drew Barnes, an automotive teacher at Vale High School. 

“He was definitely one of the most intelligent students in Vale and had a strong work ethic, yet he is down to Earth and affable in a way that makes him relatable,” Barnes said. “One of the most polite and respectful students I’ve ever taught. He was very polite, respectful. Has great morals, ethical values.”

For Andersen, winning the award was the culmination of an early lifetime of humility, tenacity, hard work and faith.

“The students who make up this year’s scholarship recipients are extraordinary,” wrote John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, in a press release. “Each of them have shown real promise to be determined and inspiring leaders.”

This isn’t the first time that Andersen received a large scholarship. 

The College of Idaho awarded Andersen the school’s Presidential Scholarship, worth $60,000 over four years. 

“The scholarship from the college will be enough to cover all of my tuition,” Andersen said. “And the GE Reagan Scholarship will help cover part of my room and board.”

He plans to use the money he saved from “4-H projects and summer work” to help pay for school.

“I won’t have to pay anything for the first year,” said Andersen. He hopes he “won’t have to come out with any debt” from college.

“I know I’m very blessed to be in the position that I’m in and to have the teachers and mentors that taught me over the years,” Andersen said. “And I know I’m very blessed to be raised in a family that I have.”