Scholarship fund named for teacher helps future educators

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The Julie M. Sager Memorial Scholarship was named for the Tabb Elementary School teacher who passed away from cancer in 2013. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Sarah Bowman) 

YORK COUNTY — Julie M. Sager was a mother, a teacher and an advocate for young people accomplishing their goals. 

Julie was a kindergarten and third grade teacher at Tabb Elementary School for eighteen years before she lost her six-year battle with cancer on January 1, 2013. 

She retired just one month before she passed away at 62 years old.

“She was working full-time, undergoing chemo treatments and still remained a third grade teacher right up until the end,” said her daughter, Sarah Bowman. 

Prior to becoming an educator, Julie began her career as a social worker in Newport News. 

She took time to raise her family before returning to her alma mater, Christopher Newport University, to pursue a teaching license. 

During her career at Tabb Elementary, Julie is remembered not only for educating, but inspiring young people. 

Two months after Julie died, Sarah and her family set up a scholarship fund in Julie’s name that supports future educators. 

The Julie M. Sager Memorial Scholarship Fund is awarded annually to a senior from one of  York County’s high schools who is planning to major in education. 

Sarah said that her family also created the scholarship fund as a way to remember Julie. 

“She would always motivate young people,” Sarah said. “And if she saw someone was interested in something, or an opportunity for a young person to grow and learn new skills, she would recommend it.” 

Julie taught at Tabb Elementary for 18 years right up until just a month before she died. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Sarah Bowman)

The scholarship committee, which consists of Sarah, her two sisters, Julie’s friends and her former coworkers, was established through the York Foundation for Public Education. It is facilitated through the Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia. 

The first scholarship was awarded in 2013. At that time, the recipient received $500. Since then, the scholarship grew to a $1,000 fund.

Sarah said that they begin the scholarship committee meeting each year by remembering Julie and then looking through the recipients’ applications and essays. 

The scholarship committee looks for people who have the “same spark and passion for education” as Julie did.

“Someone [like Julie] who might have overcome challenging times, and who would have the same strong perseverance and just a desire to make a difference in people’s lives,” she added. 

Past recipients have included a former student of Julie’s. Last year’s fund was awarded to a senior who sang at Julie’s funeral; a unique connection that was unbeknownst to the family at the time.

“The connections have been very moving,” Sarah said.

Julie’s family said she had a passion for educating and inspiring young people. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Sarah Bowman)

Since starting the scholarship fund, Sarah and her family have received messages from Julie’s former students and co-workers relaying countless memories and how she impacted their lives. 

Many former students have conveyed their memories of how Julie inspired them to try out for a sports team or even pursue a career in teaching.

“You want the person that you lose to be remembered,” Sarah said. “And just hearing people’s memories of my mom and learning about the impact she’s made, it’s hard to put into words.”

York County high school seniors interested in applying for the scholarship can visit the Julie M. Sager Memorial Scholarship page. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2021.

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