READFIELD — The surprise phone call brought good news.
At first, however, Maranacook Community High School senior Jared Diou-Cass didn’t realize just how good the news was when he learned he had won the Proton OnSite Scholarship.
It was one of many scholarships for which Diou-Cass applied this year, and he didn’t remember how much it was worth.
“I can’t remember now; I did it so long ago, I forgot about it” Diou-Cass said. “I think it’s, like, a thousand dollars?”
Actually, guidance counselor Kristen Levesque informed him, the scholarship is worth $100,000.
“A hundred thousand?” Diou-Cass said, a little incredulously. “Well, there you go. I forgot.”
Diou-Cass is one of three winners in the national scholarship competition, which chooses students based on academic excellence, financial need and commitment to studying and working in science or technology.
The scholarship was founded by Tom Sullivan, founder of Lumber Liquidators and owner of Proton OnSite, a renewable energy company based in Connecticut.
When Diou-Cass was called into Levesque’s office on Monday afternoon, he thought it was about an upcoming regional awards banquet; but instead, he received a call from Sullivan.
“Hopefully you invent something good,” Sullivan told him.
After hearing the news, Diou-Cass said he planned to call his grandparents, Paul and Linda Diou of Manchester, who are raising him and his three younger brothers. Their regular conversation about his day at school would be very different, Diou-Cass said.
“Usually I’ll just say school was good; but I’ll say, ‘Oh, I won $100,000,'” Diou-Cass said. “They’ll think it’s funny, and then they’ll be amazed.”
Diou-Cass plans to attend Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. He chose the school because it combines a small-college feel with strong science and engineering programs, which are rare at liberal arts colleges. Union College also offered more financial aid than Diou-Cass’s next choice, the University of Pennsylvania.
“Union did offer a good financial aid package; but at the same time, my grandparents were going to have to pay for a little bit of it,” Diou-Cass said, “and they have three other grandchildren who are hopefully going to college, so it’s going to make a big difference for my brothers.”
According to the Union College website, the cost of tuition, room and board, and student fees is $56,289 per year.
Diou-Cass is hopeful that with the scholarship, he will be able to avoid massive college debt of the sort burdening many young people.
Diou-Cass is one of Maranacook’s Top Scholars this year. He plays trumpet in the school’s jazz band and its concert band, and he played the lead role in this year’s musical.
He is president of the school’s National Honor Society chapter, a co-founder of the school’s Civil Rights Team and a three-season athlete.
Diou-Cass also is co-head of the Student Senate’s Sustainability Committee. He has worked on projects such as tracking the school’s energy use, having solar panels installed at the school and getting elementary students involved in the high school’s garden.
Diou-Cass said he probably will major in environmental science, biology or chemistry and probably will go to graduate school. He isn’t sure what he wants to do as a career.
Maranacook physics teacher Steve DeAngelis, who taught Diou-Cass in honors physics last year and coached him in Nordic skiing for three years, wrote a letter recommending him for the scholarship.
DeAngelis said that in the letter, he emphasized that Diou-Cass is “a really, really quality person” who puts his full effort into pursuits he cares about — even when, such as skiing, they’re not among his strengths.
“He’s just one of those guys who does all the little dirty work, without doing it for getting credit,” DeAngelis said. “When you’re doing a charity breakfast, he’ll show up early to set it up. He’ll stay late to clean it up.”
Diou-Cass said he had excellent, inspirational teachers at Maranacook.
For other students, he shared a piece of advice he received from DeAngelis.
“If you spend two hours looking at scholarships and applying to scholarships, the amount you can make from that is thousands of dollars per hour,” Diou-Cass said. “And you’re never going to find a job that’s going to give you that great of a return.”
Susan McMillan — 621-5645