Friday, 04 December 2009 00:00
On Oct. 24, more than 120 volunteers representing the Westbury Public Schools-Project GRAD partnership participated in the first Westbury Walk for Success. Westbury teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, administrative staff and high school students were joined by Project GRAD board members and volunteers from across Long Island in a remarkable demonstration of community spirit.
Over the course of the morning, volunteers visited the homes of every member of the Westbury High School Class of 2013, more than 330 visits in total. During the visits, families were signed up into the Project GRAD Long Island Scholarship Program and interviews were conducted to learn more about what parents need from the district and Project GRAD to support their children’s educational efforts at home.
“The Walk for Success is a cornerstone of the Project GRAD model,” said Deidra Parrish Williams, director of community relations at Newsday and vice chair of the Project GRAD Board. “It’s a grassroots exercise that unites an entire community in supporting student achievement. So many enthusiastic ninth-graders and parents welcomed us into their homes and committed to working hard over the next four years so they can earn the GRAD scholarship and move on to succeed in college.”
Those participating in the event included Westbury Superintendent, Dr. Constance Clark-Snead, Board of Education President Karin Campbell and Trustee Larry Wornum, Westbury High School Principal Manuel Arias, Westbury Middle School Principal Dennis Hinson, Dryden Street School Principal Dale Telmer, North Hempstead Town Councilman Robert Troiano and Farmingdale State College President Dr. Hubert Keen, who is also a member of the Project GRAD board. Sponsorship was provided by participating Project GRAD board member organizations, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Bank of America and the National Grid Foundation.
“Working together with Project GRAD, we are supporting our young people during their years in Westbury schools and preparing them for the education they will receive in college,” said Dr. Clark-Snead. “The Walk for Success was an opportunity for us to meet with students and their parents, to help them understand this partnership and how we are committed to their success – now and in the future.”
To qualify for a maximum $6,000 Project GRAD college scholarship, Westbury High School students, beginning with this year’s ninth-grade class, must meet the following requirements: graduate with a New York State Regents Diploma in no more than four years from Westbury High School while maintaining a minimum cumulative 81 average; complete two Project GRAD-sponsored summer institutes at local institutions of higher education; and take the SAT. To sustain the Project GRAD scholarship once in college, students must maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA while taking at least nine credit hours per semester. Project GRAD scholarships are distributed each semester during college, averaging distributions of $1,500 per year. The Westbury Class of 2013 will be the first recipients of the Project GRAD Scholarship, with subsequent high school classes to be signed up annually.
“We like to think of our Scholarship Program as the initial down payment on a student’s college education,” said Dr. Daryl Ogden, president of Project GRAD USA. “The Project GRAD Scholarship is typically the very first scholarship students and their family learn about in high school, and we see from our work across the nation that the motivation and hope the scholarship provides helps students improve their academic performance and sets higher aspirations for themselves in terms of attending college and considering what they want to pursue in college and beyond.”
Principal Arias was positive about the event and its outcome. “This was our first ‘walk’ and it was a great ‘success,’ from the numbers that volunteered to the positive response we’ve received from parents and students who signed up. The scholarships will be great motivators as well as a substantial financial relief for our Class of 2013.”
Project GRAD Long Island is part of the national Project GRAD USA network, representing 13 school districts, more than 200 schools, and more than 130,000 students, from Alaska to Atlanta, Los Angeles to Long Island. In 2008, in large part due to the leadership of United States Representative Carolyn McCarthy and then United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, both original sponsors of congressional legislation, Project GRAD USA achieved status as a federally authorized program under the auspices of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Project GRAD Long Island, an independent nonprofit organization, also receives generous private support from many prominent Long Island philanthropic and corporate leaders.
Project GRAD’s Scholarship Program is part of a comprehensive approach to the Westbury partnership. In close collaboration with the school district, Project GRAD also provides support for the professional development of teachers, college access activities, and parent engagement efforts, all with the goal of improving student achievement, raising graduation rates, and helping as many students as possible go on to be successful in college and career.