The 2023 Jennifer and Jolyn Vigen Scholarship was Presented to Olivia Hempel by Holly Haugen.
The Jennifer and Jolyn Vigen “Special Education” Award was established in 2009 by the siblings of Jennifer Vigen, in honor of their sister, as well as their mother, Jolyn Vigen. This scholarship was created to commemorate their participation in, and dedication to, “a free and appropriate public education” for all students.
This is an annual scholarship awarded to an LHS graduate based on financial need, who has achieved a 2.5 CPA or above, who is planning on entering into the Special Education field. Emphasis will also be placed on moral character and a demonstrated commitment to helping individuals with developmental disabilities. To be eligible, an online application must be submitted within the specified deadline and be reviewed by the selection committee. Payment will be made directly to the school. If for any reason, the successful recipient cannot accept the scholarship, an alternate will be chosen in his or her place. The family of Jennifer and Jolyn Vigen would like to encourage ongoing donations to this scholarship to ensure an adequate supply of special people chosen to go into this field.
When Jennifer was born with Down syndrome in 1973, Thief River Falls Public School District did not have much for facilities or programs where her mother, Jolyn, could bring her for evaluations, services, or enrichment opportunities. In fact, no public school in the U.S. did. Then Public Law 94-142 - the IDEA Act - was passed in 1974, guaranteeing a “free and appropriate public education” for developmentally delayed persons. School districts were then called upon to provide educational programs and services to people like Jennifer, and she entered TRF public schools as a 3-year-old, perhaps the first to do so in District #564 under the provision of the new law. While neither Jolyn not school officials had ever heard of the terms “early intervention,” “IEP,” or “mainstreamed” yet; they basically defined them through their application to special education, and commitment to team work. Jennifer had adaptive classes when appropriate and was mainstreamed when that worked. She participated in “regular” art, music, phy ed, lunch, recess, and extracurricular activities. She was the LHS Girls’ Volleyball and Basketball ‘Manager’ in high school, and the Lady Prowlers’ number #1 fan! Throughout these years, Jolyn was her daughter’s greatest advocate who encouraged her every step of the way, was a true visionary, and instrumental in creating the path for others to follow. Jen walked through graduation in 1993 at 19 years with her peers, but was eligible for two more years of public education. She spent those last two years at MCTC (Minneapolis Community & Technical College) in the Twin Cities, in a post-secondary transition program. Jennifer also had the experience of supportive employment through the Falls DAC Program, and TSE, Inc., in the Twin Cities. Jennifer lived her family in the Twin Cities until her death in 2008, at the age of 35.