The Riverbank Historical Society membership has voted to take over funding of scholarships begun by a pioneer educator in the Riverbank School District.
The Laura Christine Catherine Peterson scholarships were originally funded by the teacher and first female principal in the district to help support students from her school. Originally intended to be financed by interest from investments from her estate, the recent global upheaval has decimated the money, leaving less and less available for the students.
Following a recommendation from its executive board, members of the city’s Historical Society voted last week to continue the tradition and take over the funding of the Laura C.C. Peterson Memorial Scholarship Awards.
Peterson’s contribution to Riverbank education is documented at the museum on the wall that also features photos of the original school and early classes that attended.
Miss Peterson, as she was called, passed away in 1982, but established two awards, one for a middle school student and one for a Riverbank High School student. Her plan was to put some money in the bank and have the interest on the account to pay for monetary awards. She hoped the interest on the account would allow the awards to remain in perpetuity.
They were to honor students for their class work and encourage them to continue their education.
The junior high award was given to one boy and one girl. To apply, they write an essay telling about their contributions to the community as volunteers. A panel of judges takes into account their academic work in addition to the essays. They choose an eighth grade boy and girl, with the awards presented at Cardozo Middle School graduation exercises.
At the high school level, the award was also to encourage the continued education of students. Two awards were given to the highest GPAs, most often to the valedictorian and salutatorian of the class.
Laura C.C. Peterson is remembered as a woman of compassion and patience who taught many Riverbank students and mentored many young teachers.
She was born in the Bay Area and graduated from Alameda High School in 1924 and completed a full course of study at the State Teachers College of San Francisco, graduating in 1928.
She began her 43-year educational career at Riverbank Grammar School and, 20 years later, became the district’s first female teacher/principal with the opening of California Avenue School. The next year, she opened another new school in Riverbank, Rio Altura.
She was said to stress academics, but also focused on honesty, self-confidence, responsibility and respect for others. She believed that students needed these values to survive in the world.
In 2014, Peterson was recognized at the 35th annual Outstanding Women of Stanislaus County awards dinner, hosted by the county Commission for Women, honored posthumously in the Women in History category.