When Kaitlyn Schmacher of Scio High School and Colin Thurston of Santiam High School were named Linn County Junior First Citizens in November 2019, they didn’t know they would hold their titles for two years.
But the COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 event sponsored by Rotary Clubs in Albany, Lebanon and Sweet Home to be postponed in November. This week, it was officially canceled until fall.
“We can’t hold fundraisers, and the kids are going to school by video,” Rotarian Doris Johnston said. “We haven’t been able to raise enough money to keep it going for now.”
Johnston said the plan is to start the program up again in June or July and work with area schools for the annual November selection and awards.
“The Greater Albany Rotary Club will still provide scholarships at the end of this school year, but we don’t know what everyone else is doing,” Johnston said. “Everyone is trying to work things into their budgets.”
The Linn County Junior First Citizen program began in 1961 and honors a boy and girl from each of the eight public high schools in the county — South Albany, West Albany, Central Linn, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Santiam, Scio and Sweet Home.
Junior First Citizen candidates should be leaders in their schools and communities, care about the wellbeing of others and excel in sports and other activities.
The individuals selected by their schools are interviewed by local business and civic leaders who select the countywide boy and girl honorees at the Lebanon branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam. The announcement is made at an annual dessert held at Linn-Benton Community College.
The students receive numerous gifts, and the county winners receive college scholarships. All are invited to ride on a float in the annual Veterans Day Parade in Albany.
For years the program was sponsored and operated by the Insurance Associates of the Willamette Valley. The Rotary Clubs of Linn County took over the program four years ago.
Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.