Making Our Community a Better Place
For many graduating high school seniors, the prospect of shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for a college education is daunting.
And thanks to a local scholarship foundation that is trying to keep students on a path to success after high school, 28 area students are heading off to college in the fall, and some as early as this week.
Each graduate – from one home school and eight public and private high schools in Boca Raton and Delray Beach – received four-year scholarships from the Eda and Cliff Viner Community Scholars Foundation, Inc. A panel of judges interviewed 64 applicants and selected the best, brightest and neediest.
Along with the scholarship, they were paired with volunteer mentors who will work with them over their four years in college.
This program, in its second year, will teach the students responsibility and hold them accountable. To be in compliance with their scholarship, they must contact their mentors every week.
This is a huge investment for these local professionals who were screened and completed a two-hour orientation. Several are first-time mentors. Others, including me, are old hands.
I like the Viner scholarship program because it eliminates one potential college entrance barrier for good students — cost — and attempts to motivate high schoolers to keep their grades up. High school graduates who have at least a 3.0 average and have demonstrated they are academically ready for college-level math and English courses are eligible for the scholarships.
Currently, annual costs for tuition, room and board at an “affordable” state school range between $15,000 and $28,000. Even those who qualify for financial aid from the state, the federal government and the university itself can find themselves paying up to $18,000 per year.
To date, the program has given 46 local young men and women an opportunity to get a college education.
“The Viner Scholarship has helped me tremendously in my first semester of college,” Lauren Brito wrote. “By financially assisting me in the cost of my classes, materials, and more, this scholarship has relieved much stress and burden from my family, which allowed me to focus even more on school, and end up getting all A’s in my first semester.”
Another scholar, Megan Rahnama, has been volunteering as a researcher for Limbitless Solutions at the University of Central Florida to create efficient prosthetics for children.
The pool of recipients reflects the community. Twelve are white, there are seven blacks, six Hispanics and three are Asians. Several of them are first in their families to pursue a post-secondary education. Many are the sons and daughters of locals who have worked all their adult lives in low-wage jobs. And for many, this scholarship will ease the financial burden.
The foundation also partners with a handful of local agencies and organizations to provide additional resources to help the students and their family members. In fact, this past year, those resources helped a parent who lost a job, a family that needed legal guidance and another family that needed special services for a disabled relative.
“The Viner Foundation understands what college students go through so by also providing a thoughtful mentoring system, I have someone I can always go to that can connect with me and guide me on a different level than my friends and family,” Brito continued. “Knowing that I have so many resources to help me succeed has truly made me a better, happier, more confident, and even more excited college student. I am so blessed and grateful to be a part of such a phenomenal program.”
On Sunday I attended the awards banquet at Boca West where, quite deservingly, these honorees were treated as royalties.
Motivational speaker and success coach Michael Rosenfeld encouraged the scholars to discover themselves as they begin the next chapter of their lives. Rosenfeld also did an upbeat bonding session with them a few weeks earlier at the Lifetime Athletic Club where the mentors met their protégées for the first time.
The highlight of Sunday’s event was U.S. Rep. Ted Deutsch, D- Boca Raton, who challenged them to find their own “moonshot”.
“Find a goal that you never thought would be possible, commit yourself to it,” he told them. “Find a passion that drives that ambition and if it was not clear to you when you came here tonight, that passion is going to be strengthened by your mentors and by this community.”
Improving the quality of life in our area, especially for our youth, is a commendable deed.
Eda & Cliff Viner, Carolyn Blake Goldman and all those responsible for this program deserve recognition for reaching out to outstanding local students with praise and financial support. Well done!
- Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@DelrayBeachTribune.com or 561-665-0151.