Titusville Linked Scholarship Helps Sisters Thrive

With support from a scholarship with Titusville origins, two Hydetown sisters completed their educations and returned to the community in jobs they’re passionate about.

In May, Juliet Hilburn, 22, became the second person in her family to graduate from college with help from the Ross R. and Shirley A. Casella Scholarship. Juliet earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Mercyhurst University. The scholarship was awarded through the Crawford Heritage Community Foundation.

Three years prior, her sister, Jessica Hilburn, 25, earned her bachelor’s of arts in history, from Mercyhurst. The sisters say the Casella Scholarship opened up educational doors for them, and allowed them to seek fulfilling jobs after graduation, without the burden of student loan debt.  

Just a few weeks ago, Juliet began a full-time position with the Oil Region Alliance as the agency’s analyst-educator. She also serves as the agency’s steward of the Tarbell House in Titusville. The house was the childhood home of Ida Tarbell, a noted investigative journalist and biographer of the progressive era.

In 2017, Jessica completed her master’s degree in social sciences. She works in Titusville as Benson Memorial Library’s historian and head of reference.

The Casella Scholarship awards up to $20,000 a year for four years. The scholarships are presented annually to one or more students who have graduated from Titusville Area School District, or the Ohio schools of Dover High School, New Philadelphia High School, or St. Joseph Catholic Elementary. Scholarship recipients must be enrolling in an accredited college, university, or technical school. Scholarships are granted with the expectation that they may be renewed each year for a total of four awards.

Ross and Shirley Casella were members of the Titusville community, and owners of Keystone Honing Corp. They were born and raised in the vicinity of the Ohio communities of Dover and New Philadelphia.

In 2010, the Casellas’ $1.1 million gift to the Crawford Heritage Community Foundation that started the scholarship fund was then the second largest in the foundation’s history. The fund grew to more than $2.4 million through April 2012 with bequests of the remainder of the Casellas’ retirement accounts. The fund now totals more than $3.4 million.

Unburdened by student debt, the Hilburn sisters were able to pursue jobs that fit their interests, and serve the community.

The scholarship made it possible for Jessica to return to the area and work in the nonprofit sector, at her local library.

With Jessica as its historian, the library opened its first-ever local history area, and is digitizing records for the first time. As a part of this new service, library patrons can digitize their photos and documents, and also convert VHS home movies to digital format. Thanks to Jessica, the library also gives library visitors access to Ancestry.com, free of charge.

Projects spearheaded by Jessica have helped put local history in the hands of the community, while helping to preserve it, as well, according to Justin Hoenke, library executive director.

With her educational background, Jessica is “making people more aware of the town’s rich history, as well as their own personal history,” said Hoenke.

Although Juliet is focused on her new job with the Oil Region Alliance, she’s also thinking about her future, and the possibility of graduate school. The Casella scholarship not only let her take a position she wanted after graduation, it also opened the door for furthering her education without crushing student debt from an undergraduate degree, she said.