Ford Division and its dealers today announced a new scholarship program, "Ford Country Scholars," which will provide nearly $4 million of financial assistance to young people committed to careers that support rural life.

During the next three years, the program will provide scholarships of $5,000 each to high school students in 11 Western states who are enrolling in universities, colleges, community colleges or technical institutes to prepare for careers in rural communities.

"Ford and its dealers are committed to helping ensure a strong future for the next generation of leaders in our rural areas," says Cisco Codina, Ford Division general marketing manager. "We want young people to recognize the educational, career and lifestyle opportunities in smaller communities that provide so much to all Americans."

States participating in the program include Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

"For nearly 100 years, Ford dealers have played a contributing role in the future or our local communities," says Ralph Seekins, national Ford dealer council chairman. "This scholarship program is one way Ford and its dealers are demonstrating a commitment to our nation's rural communities and their economies."

Applications for 2002 scholarships will be available from Ford brand dealers in participating states starting April 1. Applications also will be available through many high school guidance counselors and on the Internet at www.fordcountryscholars.com.

Scholastic achievement, local community service and career plans that support rural life will be among the qualifications sought. Eligibility requirements and judging criteria will be included with the application form. Completed applications must be postmarked by May 17, 2002.

In each state, a panel of Ford dealers, Ford Division representatives, and local educators and civic leaders will judge scholarship applications. Recipients of the 2002 scholarships will be notified this summer.

Ford Motor Company and its dealers have a long history of supporting youth in rural communities. The company has long been a leading sponsor of the FFA, recently committed $1.5 million as the primary sponsor of the Provider Pals program and contributes equipment to America’s Second Harvest, a national nonprofit organization serving food banks.