OTTUMWA — A high school senior who shares the work ethic and spunk of the late Lisa Caldwell has been awarded a scholarship in her honor.
Ottumwan Hunter Varner, a senior at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont High School, earned the first Wapello County Sheriff Reserves Lisa Caldwell Memorial Scholarship this week, a $1,000 award that will go toward her college education as a criminal justice major at either Iowa Wesleyan College or William Penn University.
Varner is the daughter of Brett and Misty Little of Ottumwa and Zack and Erin Baayen of Temecula, Calif.
Wapello County Sheriff reserve officer Jeremy Weller said the reserves had talked about providing scholarships for a couple of years. Then one year ago one of their own, Caldwell, was killed, prompting the officers to name the scholarship after her.
Last year's golf tournament fundraiser brought in more than $2,000, which added to the $2,000 the reserves had already provided to the scholarship from their own funds. While the original goal was to provide two high school seniors with $500 scholarships, the officers decided $1,000 to one student would be more helpful.
"$500 doesn't go very far," Weller said. "It might pay for the credits for a class, and it may not even pay for books."
Varner's essay caught the officers' attention, discussing the pros and cons of armed police officers in schools, which she wrote following the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Conn.
School shootings hit close to home for her parents, Varner said, who were students at Ottumwa High School in 1994 when their good friend, Jeremy Allen, was shot and killed by another student.
"Her essay stood out," said reserve officer Thomas Millikin. "And through some of the stuff she's done, she's shown some good leadership qualities."
Varner is on her school's volleyball and track teams, is the wrestling team's manager and has already completed a year of her criminal justice degree after taking courses through Indian Hills since she was a high school freshman.