Nicholas Byrne Padesky Scholarship Redefines Traditional Criteria

August 29, 2023

By La Crosse Community Foundation

Nicholas Padesky at his alma mater, Central High School

Channeling Philanthropic Gift Requires Thought

Nicholas Padesky had always considered himself fortunate. When his parents, Tim Padesky and Tara Johnson, informed him of their intention to commemorate his Central High School graduation with a gift to the La Crosse Community Foundation, Padesky was overwhelmed with gratitude. The news was heartwarming, yet it also presented Padesky with a choice.

Rather than channeling their generosity into one of the existing charities within the foundation, Padesky was keen on targeting a particular cause, believing it would generate a more pronounced impact. The recent scholarship ceremony at Central High School was fresh in his memory, prompting him to consider the possibility of founding an endowed scholarship. But not just any scholarship; he envisioned one that would support the unsung heroes.

Not Just Any Scholarship for Central High School Students

For Padesky, the traditional yardsticks of academic excellence, such as GPA or test scores, weren’t the sole indicators of a student’s aptitude. Yet he’d seen several peers claim multiple scholarships due to those measures as other deserving students were left with none. While the scholarship awardees weren’t in any way undeserving, the distribution was uneven.

So Padesky designed his scholarship specifically for students taking AP classes (tough classes that can lower GPAs for even the most diligent students) and involved in extracurricular activities — in other words, those demonstrating dedication, commitment, and hard work outside textbooks and lectures.

“Success is multifaceted, and it’s not always represented in numbers,” said Padesky.

He grew the fund with graduation gifts. And his thank-you notes generated additional, direct donations to the fund. This wave of support solidified his belief in the cause.

Fine-tuning the Central High School Scholarship

In 2021, Padesky felt the need for a more inclusive approach, ensuring that deserving students from all walks of life were recognized. So he talked with La Crosse Community Foundation CEO Jamie Schloegel and added a criterion for the scholarship: preference for underrepresented populations.

There were years when Padesky heard nothing from scholarship recipients, which made him question its impact, though one year, the beneficiary thanked his parents. But a heartfelt note from this year’s beneficiary, Kelechi Nduka, revived his faith in the scholarship’s purpose.

In high school, Nduka participated in several co- and extracurricular programs, including Health Science Academy, Black Student Unity, Interact, show choir, and piano, all while retaining highest honor roll and membership in the National Honor Society. Nduka now is beginning psychology (on the pre-med track) and theology studies at Notre Dame. She hopes to become a clinical psychiatrist.

“Kelechi’s note was really sweet,” said Padesky. “Her sincere gratitude and qualifications for the scholarship reinforced my original intent and assured me that the scholarship fund is doing what I want it to do.”

Growing the Scholarship Fund for Central High School Graduates

Today, Padesky’s vision for the fund remains flexible. He’s contemplating whether to enlarge the existing scholarship or diversify into more scholarships. He’s particularly interested in creating a new one for students pursuing trades and apprenticeships in local unions.

Like so many donors with eponymous funds at the La Crosse Community Foundation, Nicholas Padesky is not just a name behind a scholarship. He’s a testament to the power of thoughtful giving, ensuring local high graduates find the means they need to navigate their future.