SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Applications are now open for the 5th Annual ‘Dave Vigneault Political Scholarship’, for Springfield High School students who aspire to pursue careers in Public Service.

This $1,000 scholarship, awarded annually, aims to honor the memory of former State Representative Dave Vigneault, a dedicated political activist and champion of social justice. The scholarship, established after Vigneault’s passing from pancreatic cancer on February 13, 2019, seeks to encourage young individuals interested in the political process.

Dave Vigneault, who served as a Springfield State Representative from 1961-1972, began his political career as a sophomore majoring in Political Science at UMass. Throughout his life, Vigneault demonstrated an unwavering commitment to public service and political activism. His lasting impact inspired former State Representative Paul Caron to spearhead the creation of the Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“The ‘Dave Vigneault Political Scholarship’ pays tribute to his lifelong dedication to public service and his belief in empowering young people to participate in the political process,” shared Caron.

Vigneault’s remarkable journey included joining the Freedom Riders in 1965, traveling to Mississippi to assist in registering black voters. His activism led to his arrest by members of the Nashoba County Sheriff’s Department on charges of disturbing the peace and refusing to obey a police officer.

Ironically, Vigneault found himself detained by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, a member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who was involved in the 1988 movie ‘Mississippi Burning.’ While incarcerated, Price ominously suggested that Vigneault would be released only to fall prey to the ‘night riders.’

The ‘Dave Vigneault Political Scholarship’ specifically targets Springfield High School students interested in pursuing careers in Public Service. Caron emphasized, “Dave dedicated his life to the political process and always took the time to mentor the next generation of political leaders.”

The Scholarship Review Committee, comprising notable individuals including Springfield City Councilors Jesse Lederman and Victor DaVila, will evaluate submitted essays as part of the application process. The 2023 Scholarship recipient will be announced on July 1.

Applications will be reviewed by the eight-member Dave Vigneault Scholarship Review Committee, consisting of:

  • Former State Representative Paul Caron
  • Tony Cignoli (Springfield area Political Consultant)
  • Tony Cignoli (Springfield area Political Consultant)
  • Karen Hart and Mary Moge (daughters of Karel Welch, a close family friend and Vigneault’s life partner)
  • Springfield City Councilors Jesse Lederman and Victor DaVila
  • Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi
  • Springfield Firefighter Brian Vigneault (Dave’s nephew)

To request a scholarship application, individuals can reach out to caron@paulcaron.org