Three recent Laker grads are proving that even in the financially lean years of college, it's still possible to pay it forward.

Wanting to give back to the school and community that they say have given them so much, Detroit Lakes High School alums Auroura Eckberg, Isaac Eggebraaten and Jacob Hanson have created scholarship awards for two lucky 2019 graduates.

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The two separate awards, of $500 each, will be given out at this year's Dollars for Scholars program at Detroit Lakes High School. All three alums will be attending the program to personally hand the scholarship recipients their awards.

Mike Sidders, a Dollars for Scholars board member, said it's unique to have such recent grads create and award their own scholarships. College years traditionally mean frugal resources, he said, and these three have worked hard to give something back to their community.

"I think we've got some pretty special kids here," Sidders said. "It just makes you feel like, boy, we sure are in good hands with this generation... It's just a really cool situation."

Eckberg's scholarship is aimed at female grads going into a STEM-related field (science, technology, engineering and math). A 2016 Detroit Lakes graduate, she is studying chemical engineering at the University of North Dakota and is also the current Miss Northwest title holder. Her platform centers on women in science.

Eggebraaten and Hanson, who both graduated from Detroit Lakes last year and are good friends, are now freshmen at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Their scholarship is geared toward a Laker grad who embodies the spirit of "Laker Pride."

"They have to have good grades, keep up on their studies, go to sporting events... Just be a good kid," explained Eggebraaten of their ideal scholarship recipient. "They have to be involved not only in school, but also in the community. That's what Jacob and I felt really passionate about when we were in high school."

Eggebraaten said he and Hanson were inspired to create a scholarship after receiving their own awards through Dollars for Scholars last year.

"We got those little envelopes, and we thought it was really cool," he said. "Directly after that we...asked how to get involved. We felt it was important to give back to people, and to give back to Detroit Lakes, in that way."

In future years, the pair would like to hold a fundraiser to generate money for the scholarship. For this first year, they funded it themselves.

"We're both in debt," Eggebraaten laughed, "but we worked over winter break and spring break, and we've just been setting it aside, slowly, little by little."

To raise funds for her scholarship, Eckberg organized a unique event called the Northwest Pi Run. A tie-in to her Miss Northwest platform and her own interest in math and science, the Pi Run was a 3.14-mile run (get it?) that enticed participants with free slices of pie - baked and donated by Eckberg's church, Lund Lutheran - as well as free Lakeshirts T-shirts. It was held at the high school on March 16.

"I was in cross country and track when I was in high school, so I thought it would be really fun to combine the things that I enjoy to help somebody else out," Eckberg said. "It was a lot of fun. The participants that came out, they had a good time running."

She hopes to do the event again next year, in order to offer another scholarship.

"I'm really excited to be able to do this, and to give back to the high school, because I enjoyed my time there," she said. "Detroit Lakes is a good community to grow up in. They're very supportive."

Dollars for Scholars is a nonprofit foundation that supports the academic success of local students in various ways, including through the distribution of college scholarships.

"There are a whole host of different scholarships," said Sidders. "Last year, the program extended over a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships, so it's not insignificant money, and it's all community-based. It's all here in Detroit Lakes, which is just great."

This year's Dollars for Scholars awards program will be held Monday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Detroit Lakes High School. The public is welcome to attend.