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Duct tape scholarships stick out among the offbeat

| Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010

Many young people win scholarships for using all their marbles. Amber Ricci of Shaler won one for shooting marbles.

The National Marbles Tournament Scholarship, with its $2,000 grand prize, is one of the many offbeat awards available for college-bound students.

Students can win money for being tall. They can win it for being small. They can get scholarships for duck calling and for duct taping.

Amber, 14, a sophomore at Oakland Catholic High School, won the 2008 National Marbles Tournament and has been inducted into its Hall of Fame.

"I was trained by my Dad and my Gram," she said. "It was years and years of practice."

She plans to use her winnings to study diseases.

The tournament started in 1922 and originally gave away bicycles as prizes. In 1968, it was sponsored by Marble King Inc., a marbles maker in Paden City, W.Va.

By then, bikes were no longer such a novelty, said Beri Fox, president of the National Marbles Tournament Board of Directors in Cumberland, Md. Her father, then president of Marble King, switched to scholarships.

"Many kids will tell you that they would not have gone to school if that had not been out there," she said.

One of the zaniest scholarships is the Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck on Prom Contest. The first-place winners and their school each gets $3,000.

Sharon Dranko and Joshua Humm, graduates of the former Center Area High School in Beaver County, bagged the prize in 2008. She spent more than $600 to buy 134 rolls of duct tape to make her dress, his tux and all the accessories, including shoes, his hat and tie and her flowers.

Dranko, 19, a sophomore at Kent State University, spent all of her scholarship money on books and supplies during her first three semesters. She majors in fashion merchandising.

She said the three months she spent making the outfits were definitely worth it, although the 50-pound dress made her sweat during the prom. The dress now sits in tatters in the basement of her parents' home where she uses it as a table.

Dranko has no plans to make another outfit like that.

"I'm all duct taped out," she said.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors at Juniata College have to use their left hand as well as their brains to get the Frederick and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship.

The origin of the scholarship is rooted in romance. The couple met in gym class at Juniata in 1919. The class was tennis, and their teacher paired the two lefties because it was easier for them to hit to each other's forehand.

They were married five years later.

"College is expensive; every little bit helps," said Beckley Scholarship recipient John O'Donnell, 21, a senior from Coalport in Clearfield County. The scholarship can generate between $1,500 to nearly $3,000 a year.

Andrew Bova, a junior at Carnegie Mellon, is the winner of the $7,000-a-year Lewis W. Davidson Bagpipe Memorial Scholarship for bagpipe majors.

Bova, 21, of Perrysburg, Ohio, has known he wanted to go to CMU since he first began playing the bagpipe at age 12.

"It is such a unique instrument," he said. "It can be really melancholy and haunting and bring you to tears, and at the same time it can sound absolutely rejoiceful. It has a place at funerals and a place at pubs with friends."

Statistically speaking, an applicant's best chances of winning a zany scholarship may be the Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest. Just 10 to 15 students show up in Stuttgart, Ark., every Friday after Thanksgiving to compete. Top prize is a $2,000 scholarship.

"When people normally think about tourism, they think about warm, sunny beaches," said Stephen Bell, executive director of the town's Chamber of Commerce. "When we think about tourism, we think about cold, rainy weather and ducks."

Contestants have to demonstrate four kinds of duck calls in 90 seconds: hail, feed, come back and mating. The last one is like a duck that goes quack, quack, quack, but in a soft, lovestruck way, which he tried to demonstrate.

Interested in more green stuff• High school students who don't eat meat can win a $5,000 scholarship for promoting vegetarianism in their school or community.

Fans of Star Trek can win a $500 Starfleet Academy Scholarship if they are an active Starfleet member. And the Klingon Language Institute awards a $500 Kor Memorial Scholarship for language study.

Fluency in Klingon is not required.

High school seniors must belong at least three years to a nudist group to apply for the American Nudist Research Library Scholarship.

The prize is just $1,000, which may not seem like much for college, but it should cover the bare necessities.

Cash for college

Some unusual scholarships and their Web sites where you can get more information:

Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck on Prom Contest — There's gold in duct tape, a $3,000 scholarship, for couples making their own prom outfits out of the stuff. www.stuckatprom.com .

Frederick and Mary F. Beckley Scholarship — Sophomores, juniors and seniors could make money for good grades, financial need and being left-handed. For more information, e-mail wallj@juniata.edu .

National Marbles Tournament Scholarship — "Mibsters," or marbles shooters, between the ages of 8 to 14 can earn a scholarship of up to $2,000 for their prowess at the game. www.nationalmarblestournament.org .

Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship — A tad on the spooky side, but you can make $3,000 if you want to study parapsychology and have written about it. www.parapsychology.org .

The Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship — Offers green in the form of two $5,000 scholarships. www.vrg.org/student/scholar.htm .

Tall Clubs International Scholarship — Male students at least 6-foot-2 and females at least 5-foot-10 can get a $1,000 scholarship. www.tall.org .

KLI Academic Award: The Kor Memorial Scholarship — Another $500 in Trekkie cash for language study, not necessarily Klingon. www.kli.org .

American Nudist Research Library Scholarship — $1,000 available. The research library is located at a nudist colony in Kissimmee, Fla. www.anrl.org .

Source: Tribune-Review research

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