The Ashland Beacon
Almost five years ago, a group of students at Paul Blazer High School lost a beloved mentor when math teacher, Allison McKnight, sadly lost her battle to kidney cancer. To ensure that Mrs. McKnight would not be forgotten even after all of the students that sat in her classroom were gone, they developed a memorial scholarship in her name.
Like many math teachers, Mrs. McKnight celebrated Pi Day every year on March 14, the day associated with the value of pi, which is known to be commonly shortened to ~3.14. The students used her love of Pi Day to come up with one of their biggest fundraisers for the scholarship, the Pi Day 5K race.
This year will be the fourth annual Pi Day 5K Race to raise money for the Allison Joy McKnight Memorial Scholarship, but like everything else over the past year, COVID will take its toll. Instead of runners lining up to run around and through Central Park, the race will be held virtually instead. Heather Hundley, math teacher and sponsor of National Math Honor Society at Paul Blazer, said “anybody, anywhere can run the race and then post their time on tristateracer.com.” Because the race is virtual, there will be no awards for placing first, second, or third in the race. Instead, all participants will receive a package in the mail with their race T-shirt and a finisher medal.
The Allison Joy McKnight Memorial Scholarship is a $1,000 cash scholarship that will be awarded to a Blazer senior each year “as long as we can continue to come up with the funds,” according to Hundley. Last year’s graduating class of students were the last students to have actually attended Blazer High School while Mrs. McKnight was still teaching. “They raised a lot of money last year so the scholarship was never in question this year,” Hundley proudly stated of the students.
Usually, the students in Hundley’s Honor Society club work as volunteers for the PiDay 5K Race. This year, with the race being virtual, Hundley is working by herself because “most students aren’t going to school.” The majority of Hundley’s high school students are attending school virtually instead of physically coming into the building.
The plus side of doing a virtual race is that “I haven’t needed as much money to put on the race,” says Hundley. She didn’t have to seek out donations for door prizes and ask for a lot of sponsorships. She says that she did seek out some sponsor money to cover the shipping costs for racers to receive their T-shirts and medals but Hundley says that “I promised her family that I would keep this going no matter what, even if it’s virtual, even if we only have 20 people sign up, so we’re really just trying to hold tradition and make sure it happens each year.”
The scholarship application is open to any Blazer senior that is going to be attending an accredited college or university beginning the fall after graduation. Their unweighted GPA has to be at least 3.5 and they have to be entering into a STEM program in college. Common STEM programs for this area tend to fall into the medical and engineering fields but there are also some students seeking degrees in math or in the field of technology.
The Pi Day 5K Race usually attracts between 40 and 60 runners. This year, no one has signed up yet to run in the virtual race Hundley is hoping that will change because there are always “runners” who don’t actually participate in the race. They “register for the race just because they want their money to go to a good cause” and show up the day of the race to pick up their swag bag. Many have even stayed to cheer on the other runners.
Racers have two options to sign up. They can go onto tristateracer.com to register or they can sign up on the scholarship website at ajmmemorial.weebly.com. The cost of the race is $25 and includes the finisher medal and T-shirt that will be mailed to the address of each participant. Runners can run and log their time any time beginning in the early morning on Friday, March 12, and ending late in the day on Pi Day, Sunday, March 14.