'EVERY BIT HELPS'

Scholarships help Absarokee student go to college

2013-02-21T00:05:00Z 2013-02-21T07:29:03Z Scholarships help Absarokee student go to collegeBy MARY PICKETT mpickett@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Rocky Mountain College junior Shane McClurg dressed up for an awards ceremony Wednesday.

Along with a white long-sleeved shirt, jeans and dress jacket, he sported a red bow tie, red suspenders and red sneakers.

“Red is my favorite color, if you can’t tell already,” he said cheerfully with a sweep of his hand across his outfit.

McClurg, 20, was one of several Rocky students receiving scholarships through Services for Academic Success on Wednesday afternoon.

A total of $50,000 in scholarships and stipends for faculty-led travel were given to TRIO students, said Jane Van Dyk, RMC associate vice president and director of SAS.

TRIO helps low-income, disabled and first-generation college students complete school.

McClurg and his older sister, Shawna, who attends college in California, are the first members of their family to go to college.

McClurg is grateful for the $500 he received Wednesday, which along with academic scholarships is making it possible for him to go to college.

“Every bit counts,” he said.

McClurg, who grew up in Absarokee, is double majoring in art and theater. In addition to acting in Rocky theater productions, he designed the sets of Rocky’s current musical, “South Pacific,” which starts Friday and continues Feb. 23, 28 and March 1 and 2.

McClurg is remarkably lighthearted even though he went through what no child should have to experience early in his life.

Diagnosed with cancer when he was 5, McClurg received treatments until he was 9, spending long periods in hospitals in Billings and Denver.

Unable to do what most 5-year-olds do, he entertained himself by drawing and painting.

Whether it is his upbeat personality or that time has erased the worst memories of cancer treatment, McClurg mostly recalls painting and played video games while hospitalized.

“It still was my childhood,” he said with a smile.

Although his cancer is in remission, side effects of chemotherapy caused headaches so severe in high school that he was home-schooled.

He still has headaches, although not as bad as before.

In addition to kindling an interest in art, his cancer treatment gave him an appreciation for the fragility of life and a drive to make every moment count.

He has played the ukulele since his grandmother, Faye McClurg, gave one to him when he was 15.

While still in high school, he wrote plays and made puppets to perform them for a summer reading program at the Columbus library.

With money from part-time jobs, he bought a blue skateboard in the shape of a giant foot that he named "Klaus."

An interest in comics, which also started in the hospital, has reappeared in college.

For his senior project, McClurg is creating a graphic novel — a story told through illustrations and words — about a family that owns a funeral home.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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