Character Counts! Scholarship

About the Scholarship

2021 Scholarship Deadline: Friday, May 8

The Big Sky State Games has teamed up with the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition and Kenco Security and Technology to recognize the importance of sportsmanship and character in Montana student athletes. CHARACTER COUNTS! is a nonprofit organization striving to improve the character of today’s youth. It is based on common ethical values that transcend political, religious, socio-economic, and cultural differences. Called the “Six Pillars of Character,” these values are: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Character Counts! Scholarship is sponsored by Kenco Security and Technology.

Over the past twenty years, the Big Sky State Games has awarded the Character Counts! Scholarship to outstanding Montana female and male student-citizen-athletes involved in the Big Sky State Games. The scholarship can be used for any secondary education after high school. This includes trade schools and community colleges.

Only high school juniors during the 2020-2021 school year are eligible for this scholarship. This is to ensure that fellow students can observe the scholarship winners during their senior year and to recognize the traits the students show. You can download the application application below. It will also be available at all Montana High Schools Guidance Counselor offices.

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About the 2020 Winners

The Big Sky State Games has selected Ruff Elton of Red Lodge High School, Connor Chase of Billings Skyview High School, Morgan Maack of Laurel High School, Kylie Zimmer of Fergus High School and Riley Gilsdorf of Billings Senior High School as the recipients of the 2020 Big Sky State Games Character Counts! Scholarship. The $500 scholarship winners will be recognized at the 35th Annual Big Sky State Games Opening Ceremonies event Friday, July 17.

The winners were selected based on their character, community involvement, and participation in sports. Character Counts! promotes sportsmanship and fosters good character by teaching, enforcing, advocating, and modeling, the "Six Pillars of Character": trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship


Ruff Elton

Ruff Elton has competed in nine Big Sky State Games Shooting events for three years. He has been a cadet with the Roberts Volunteer Fire Department since 2018. Ruff runs varsity cross country and performs in the pep band at Red Lodge High School. Other achievements include three academic welding awards and the President’s Education Award. Ruff spends many hours volunteering in his community and coaching junior 4-H and BB gun.


Connor Chase

Connor Chase has participated in the Big Sky State Games Basketball competition for eight years, 5k Road Race for one year, and Ultimate Frisbee for one year. He has achieved Academic All-State for track & field and cross country for the past two and three years respectively at Billings Skyview High School. Connor volunteers at two elementary schools in Billings. Connor also enjoys his involvement with his church youth group where he has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities.


Morgan Maack

Morgan Maack has participated in Big Sky State Games Soccer for eight years, Track and Field for two years, and Basketball for one year. She has received eight Academic All-State sport awards, the Triple A award, and two MHSA National Guard Academic All Team awards while attending Laurel High School. She volunteers her time at youth basketball and soccer camps as well as the Reading Under the Lights program for elementary students. Morgan also coaches and officiates for the Laurel Storm Soccer Program.


Kylie Zimmer

Kylie Zimmer has participated in Big Sky State Games Track and Field for four years. She has received three Academic All-State awards for volleyball, two for track and field, and two for basketball at Fergus High School. Kylie is also a member of FCCLA, FFA, and Key Club. She is a Kiwanis Achievement Team Scholastic Award recipient. Kylie volunteers her time with various mentoring programs such as youth sports camps and clinics.


Riley Gilsdorf

Riley Gilsdorf has participated in Big Sky State Games Tennis for six years and Track and Field for one year. She is on the Governor and First Lady Youth Leadership Council, an Ashlie Tate Junior Ambassador, and the President of the Key Club at Billings Senior High School. Riley plays an active role in the community by volunteering with many different organizations in Billings. Riley is a varsity tennis team member at The Elks Tennis Center and Billings Senior High.

Previous Winners

 Year Name City
2019 Sam George Billings
  Emily Poole Huntley
  Audrey Sipler Big Sandy
  Jessica Swandal Billings
2018 Devin Amtmann Butte
  Karter Bernhardt Billings
  Loren Murphy Huntley Project
  Shea Dolan Billings
  Hannah Hirschi Billings
2017 Maysen Whitney Billings
  Madison Gilsdorf Billings
  Makenzy Gilsdorf Billings
  Skyler Robinson Baker
2016 Cory Kistler Huntley Project
  Mick Mattie Billings
  Kelsey Kraft Laurel
  Hailey Poole Colstrip
2015 Spencer Drange Laurel
  Jacob Michels Shepherd
  Hannah Amtmann Butte
  Abbigail Lohof Laurel
2014 Madison McLaughlin Helena
  Solenn Jacobsen Baker
  Wylie Leo Ennis
  Michael Buster Laurel
2013 Mikaela Robinson Billings
  Sara Heard Billings
  James Riley Broadus
  Logan Laird Billings
2012 Ashton McLaughlin Helena
  Martha Dembek Winnett
  Michael Schwehr Lavina
  Nick Staffileno Billings
2011 Alain Jacobsen Baker
  Zach Holmes Billings
  Brianna Jo Robinson Billings
  Emily Grace Walker Huntley
2010 Lindsey Fleming Billings
  Taylor Kufeld Billings
  Ryan Hensleigh Colstrip
  Anthony Bengochea Nashua
2009 Ashley Crowe Billings
  Kacie Chatwood Billings
  Thomas Bonogofsky Belfry
  Thomas Staffileno Billings
2008 Cord Blanchard Great Falls
  Emily Carroll Billings
  Kylie Medicine Horse Pryor
  Tim Kienitz Billings
2007 Auriele Fain Billings
  Casey Rogers Billings
    Stephanie Stremcha Havre
  Rick Haluszka Harlem
2006 Bridgett Hoenke Billings
  Leo Davis Billings
2005 Ashley Grammens Lavina
  Chad McMillan Billings
2004 Alexa McLaughlin Helena
  Josh Hedge Billings
2003 Allison Peterson Sidney
  Chris Blanchard Great Falls
2002 Sara Patterson Great Falls
  Patrick Riley Bozeman
2001   Hannah Warfield   Sidney
    Shane Hensleigh   Colstrip
2000   Jenny Doely   Billings
    Jeff Graham   Chester