The Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard has supported Island students and nonprofits for 28 years. And on Tuesday this week, the board of the Permanent Endowment paused to celebrate its students at a breakfast with current and past recipients of endowment fund scholarships at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

At the outset Michael McCarthy, who heads the guidance department at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, told a story. It was about an encounter he had had with a student the night before. As Mr. McCarthy walked through the parking lot, he was stopped by a senior who had just graduated (commencement was last Sunday). The young man had struggled at the start of his high school career and was able to improve his performance by the end of his time in high school. He received a number of scholarships at Class Night and was so moved by the support he was given by people he didn’t know. He had been unsure about attending college, he had been accepted and given a scholarship by a school, but would need to pay the difference. With the scholarships he received at Class Night, his first year of college will not cost him a cent. Mr. McCarthy recounted what the student told him: “I’m not going to let this community down. That night changed my life.”

Ralinda Lurie. — Ray Ewing

The purpose of the brunch was to reconnect with students and encourage them to keep in touch, but there was also news attached to the event, as the endowment announced a new scholarship. The scholarship will be funded by small donations from students who have received scholarships in the past and will be restricted, like all the Permanent Endowment scholarships, to Island students. Anne Williamson, chairman of the board for the endowment, called it a “pay it forward” scholarship. She was also keen to have the students keep in touch, so that the endowment could put out newsletters describing their achievements. She reminded the students that the endowment has continuing scholarships available for students enrolled in college and graduate school and is not restricted to graduating seniors. She encouraged them to keep applying.

The Permanent Endowment was founded in 1982 by the late Jack Ware and received its initial gift of $60,000 from the estate of Ruth Bogan, administered by her friend Ruth Redding. Described more than once as a community foundation, the fund currently holds $7.4 million in assets, which are managed by the Martha’s Vineyard Financial Group. A volunteer board governs the endowment. “We have just a great mix of volunteers,” said Mrs. Williamson, a third grade teacher at the Tisbury School.

In addition to providing scholarships to graduating high school seniors, the endowment also provides grants for Island nonprofits, and administers and awards the prestigious Ruth Bogan Creative Living Award each year. Past winners include Allen Whiting, Gus Ben David, David and Rosalee McCullough, Art Buchwald, Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin.

Mike McCarthy tells how fund can be life-changing. — Ray Ewing

But Tuesday morning was all about the students. In 2010, the endowment awarded $123,600 in scholarships to 54 students. This year, 63 students were awarded 65 scholarships (two students won two awards) totaling $144,300. Daniel Han, a senior at Wheaton College, has received scholarships from the endowment all through his college career. “To have the support right from the start is important,” said Mr. Han, who received a Lumina/Darrell scholarship. As for the new scholarship that was announced, Mr. Han said: “I would definitely love to be a part of that. I think it’s a great idea . . . it shows support is always there.” Others echoed the thought. “I think it’s a great idea. It’s a way we can give back a little bit,” said Vivian Ewing, who was awarded the Jacqueline Ann Pimentel Arts Scholarship this year and will attend Maine College of Art. “It’s a weird feeling because you’re so grateful, but then at the same time you don’t really know what you can do for them [the endowment],” agreed Kira Shipway, who received the Walter and Irene Dumais Scholarship and will attend New York University in the fall.

“Really, we just give small pieces,” Mrs. Williamson said of the scholarships. Grants typically range between $1,000 and $5,000 for one year — not enough to cover tuition, but enough to help. Students who receive funds are encouraged to apply for support from other sources to supplement any scholarship they may receive from the endowment.

Mrs. Williamson is eager to spread the word about the endowment, which has been a quiet presence for so long. “People don’t really know what we do,” she said.

Executive director Ralinda Lurie added:” “We serve as a means of facilitating charity, so that generous individuals, families, businesses, organizations who wish to give to a community in support of their nonprofit organizations or scholarship programs can use a community foundation such as ours to facilitate their giving.”

And with the new scholarship, students can join in on the fun of philanthropy.