The Kim Simons Memorial Scholarship Supports Future Educators
Writer / Julie Yates
When people who knew Kim Simons describe her, words such as light, sparkle and shine are often used. Also mentioned is her love of all children, and the joy she took in helping them as a teacher’s aide in the classroom. Although she passed away much too soon in April of 2022, her family and the Westfield Education Foundation (WEF) are keeping her legacy alive through the Kim Simons Memorial Scholarship.
The Kim Simons Memorial Scholarship joins a list of other WEF scholarships, but is the first one dedicated towards careers in education. The WEF, a 501(c)(3) organization that started in 1986, invests and manages donated funds to create endowments, to ensure that scholarship opportunities will continue for years to come. In November, senior high school students graduating in 2023 can begin applying for WEF scholarships by visiting the WEF website.
“Kim battled lung cancer for 16 months,” says Larry Simons, her husband. “It was the last thing we ever thought would happen. She ran, was fit and not a smoker. Kim was a teacher’s aide at Oak Trace Elementary for more than eight years. She was assigned to a class with disabled and special-need students. She loved it. After she passed, my daughter Makenzie, who is a teacher at Fox Hill Elementary in Indianapolis, and I talked about starting a scholarship in Kim’s name.”
“We realized that there were no scholarships geared toward students who wanted to pursue a career in education going forward,” he continues. “When we had Kim’s celebration of life, we asked for donations, and with those plus $50,000 that I put in, there is around $100,000. We wanted to make the scholarship sustainable for years to come by making it an endowment. Hopefully it can be awarded to more than one person each year.”
Holly Wheeler, an English teacher at Westfield High School, was a close friend to Kim. The two connected when Wheeler’s oldest son Dane and Kim’s youngest son Cam were on the Westfield High School football team. Although Wheeler had taught at the school for several years, she and her family had recently moved to Westfield.
“Kim embraced me as a parent new to the community,” Wheeler says. “She was very inclusive, always inviting people to activities, and she brought people together who would never have known each other. She had a great sense of humor. There was a saying that every kid she touched would glitter. She was a stranger to no one, and always so joyful and positive. When others were going through something, she would immediately comfort them by bringing a meal or giving flowers. Even at the end when she was in bed with no energy, she would say, ‘Don’t worry about me, how are you doing?’ She made me a better person.”
There is no doubt that Kim’s love of children and the joy she got from helping to educate them is inspiring. The Simons family and their friends hope the scholarship will encourage graduating seniors to pursue teaching careers. The criteria for scholarship eligibility is a true love of children and a strong inclination to be a teacher.
“The Simons family reached out to WEF for support to create a memorial for Kim,” says Ashley Knott, WEF executive director. “Donations made permitted us to establish an endowment to fund a scholarship that will allow graduating seniors the chance to carry on Kim’s love of teaching for years to come. As a family, what a wonderful way to leave a legacy and support students.”
“Kim loved all kids,” Simons says. “She didn’t care about a child’s religion, ethnicity, whether they were rich or poor, or what their family was like. It didn’t matter to her. She thanked me for letting her do what she loved.”
Donations to the Kim Simons Memorial Scholarship can be made online at wefdonations.square.site/kim-simons-fund, or mailed to: Westfield Education Foundation, 1143 East 181st Street, Westfield, Indiana 46074.
Scholarship applications can be accessed starting in November on the Westfield Education Foundation website at wwswef.org/scholarships.