It's with great honor and excitement that we announce the establishment of the Debbie Sylvester Memorial Scholarship Fund to enshrine the legacy of a mother who faced hardship yet remained dedicated to the education of future generations.

Each year, this scholarship rewards one student who has overcome hardship with a $1,500 scholarship to a trade school, college, or university.

Debbie was born and raised in Ottumwa, IA. She moved to Farmer City, IL with her husband, Frank Sylvester, where they started and raised their family. An eternal caregiver, she began her career in nursing, sharing her love and care for those in long-term care facilities. After a brief career as a nurse at the Farmer City Nursing Home, she decided to pause her professional career to raise her three children.

In her 30s, Debbie was diagnosed with an untreatable, rare skin disease known as Scleroderma, which is a "hardening and tightening" of the skin.  This led to skin grafts, amputations, and countless surgeries on her feet that led to significant pain. Unable to get it under control, it eventually led to limited mobility and extensive use of a wheelchair until her passing in 2010 at the age of 57.

Through all the surgeries and pain over the years, Debbie was the type of person who would always greet you with a smile and ask you how you were doing. She was interested in your life, how your family was doing, how you were doing in school, how your job was going, and, of course, whether you were hungry. As a stay-at-home mom, she was fiercely dedicated to the success of her children and was a tireless advocate on their behalf. She was always looking out for and caring for neighbors, friends, and family - deflecting away from her situation and instead focusing on the well-being of others.

Over the years, Debbie, along with her husband, volunteered and supported a wide variety of extracurricular activities in the Blue Ridge School District. She also served many years as an advocate for children with emotional, behavioral, and special educational needs at Cunningham Children’s Home. Debbie was a dedicated community member, school volunteer, and supporter of the education of all children - not just those with perceived potential.

Physically in life, she was dealt a bad hand, but you would have never known it by sitting and talking to her and seeing the way she treated others. Those who knew her absolutely adored her.  Her family loved her and miss her more than words can express.

The annual $1,500 scholarship will be awarded to one graduating Blue Ridge High School senior who is planning to further their education. The scholarship recipient will meet the following criteria:

  • Graduating senior from Blue Ridge High School
  • Pursuing a post-secondary education at a trade school, college, or university
  • Possesses a minimum GPA of 2.5+ (4.0 scale)
  • Involved in at least one extracurricular activity
  • Must submit an essay (one page or less) on how they have overcome a hardship

If you would like to donate to the Debbie Sylvester Memorial Scholarship fund, please click on the Donate button below. If you prefer to make a donation in another manner, click here for information.