By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BIG SKY – Starting in 2015, students graduating from Lone Peak High School will have access to a post secondary education scholarship through the nonprofit Friends of Big Sky Education. The program aims to help support students enrolling in both college and technical schools.

Led by a local couple, Jerry and Anne Marie Mistretta, FOBSE is seeding startup funds for the new program, starting this spring.

Both former educators and school administrators, the Mistrettas have lived full-time in Big Sky for 11 years. After their son Gregory’s untimely death in a car accident during his senior year at the University of Connecticut, they started a scholarship program in honor of his memory at East Lyme High School, in Connecticut, where Greg graduated. In the two decades since, the fund has awarded more than $200,000 to college-bound youth who exemplify Greg’s attributes, according to information from the fund.

“Greg was hard working, studious, athletic, caring, friendly, fun-loving and funny,” explains the scholarship materials. He graduated in the top 5 percent of his high school class, earned Dean’s List at University of Connecticut, and was a leader and an athlete in high school.

In total, FOBSE and the Mistrettas hope to raise and award $20,000 annually for scholarships. Some of that money would be distributed through a general fund, and some from specific scholarships like the Gregory Scott Mistretta Scholarship, which will now give $1,000 annually to LPHS graduates.

A committee of school staff and community members without high school age children will award the scholarships, said Anne Marie, who was superintendent of the school district from 2005-2010, and was instrumental in the process to build the high school.

There are hundreds of similar scholarship funds in high schools around Montana, and Big Sky currently already has two. Sponsored by local service groups, the Gallatin Canyon Women’s Club and the Rotary Club of Big Sky, these were adequate to this point, because the graduating classes were so small, said Anne Marie, who has also served on the women’s club scholarship committee.

“But we have large classes coming up, and we felt that it was important to convey to them that we think it’s important that they study beyond high school,” she said, noting that FOBSE hopes to promote “a culture of scholarship” in the Big Sky community.

The driving force behind the birth of Lone Peak High School, FOBSE works to enhance everything related to education in the community, according board president Loren Bough, who is also chairman of the Big Sky School Board.

“What FOBSE does is we stand back, and take a look at things we think the community could do that we haven’t done yet.”

Bough said he is currently recruiting for this project.

“We would like to hear from people who have interesting and innovative scholarship ideas. As much as anything, we are raising awareness for the need for scholarship. We will raise some money, but we would also like to idea generate.”

The plan is to hold two fundraisers this year to get the fund off the ground, Jerry said. The first will be a walk and dinner event on July 6, and the second a music performance and silent auction at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center this fall.

Because the scholarships will operate under FOBSE, there will be no administrative costs, Jerry said, so every dollar raised will be put toward the scholarships.

“The spirit of this is to make a statement as a community that we support our high school students, and we want to see them further their education,” Anne Marie said.

Contact info@friendsofbigskyeducation.org for more information.