Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Foundation dishes out $8.5 million to students


Once again, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens brimmed with beaming students and ecstatic parents celebrating a record $8.5 million in scholarships and loans awarded to local students pursuing higher education.
Handed out annually through the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, the financial aid helps 3,300 local students attend college. An estimated 600 recipients joined in the festivities on Wednesday, along with friends and family.

“You’ve worked hard and you deserve the dream of a higher education,” Joe Cole, president of the foundation, told those gathered in the Sunken Gardens. “…We want you to believe in yourselves as we believe in you.”
Cole described how his parents had never finished high school and couldn’t support him when he went to college.
“But I had people who encouraged me, as we hope to encourage you,” he said, describing how financial aid afforded him access to higher education.
As hundreds of students filed across the stage, they paused at a microphone to give their name, the university they will be attending this fall, and the donor who supported their scholarship.
Waiting in line to give his short spiel, Daniel Lao, 18, said he first learned he had received a $1,600 scholarship several weeks ago.
“It just came in the mail,” the San Marcos High School senior said. “I was speechless.”
With plans to attend Santa Barbara City College in the fall, studying pharmacy, Lao said his scholarship funds are going straight to tuition costs.
Sara Chavis, a Santa Ynez High School student, has similar plans for her $2,400 loan and $2,100 scholarship: paying for tuition at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she hopes to study international affairs.
“It helps a lot because I’m going out of state,” she said. “…The loans are great because you only have to pay back half of it if you make the payments on time.”
Formed in 1962, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara gave away nine $100 book awards the following year — a gesture they repeated this year with a raffle at the end of the awards ceremony.
By its 40th anniversary in 2002, the foundation had supported more than 15,000 students through loans and scholarships totaling $16.7 million. Just six years later, those figures have ballooned to 23,000 students and more than $60 million.
As students continued to pour across the stage, Lisa Mochnick pointed out her daughter, 19-year-old Jillian, waiting in line.
A sophomore at the University of San Diego, Mochnick received a scholarship from Santa Barbara Bank and Trust and a loan from the Santa Barbara Foundation.
“It would be very difficult without this support,” her mother said. “As a family, we’re very grateful. … It’s an honor. Not everybody gets an award.”
In fact, the foundation had to turn away more than 450 students due to a lack of funds.
Steve Halsted, a board member of the foundation who helped interview approximately 1,100 new applicants this year, said figuring out who deserves the awards is never an easy process.
“It isn’t one size fits all,” he said. “…We look at how well they’ve done in school and that’s a good indication of how well they will put [a scholarship or loan] to use.”
He said community service beyond the mandatory requirements is also a positive factor.
Halsted noted that approximately one-third of the recipients will attend Santa Barbara City College in the fall.
“An award of $1,000 can make a tremendous difference,” he said. “…I think it gives them the impetus to keep going.”
Elena Shelton, a Santa Barbara High School student, will use her Robert O. Dugan Scholarship of $2,600 to support tuition at New York University, where she plans to study international relations.
“I was just so grateful because anything helps,” the 17-year-old said. “It’s so expensive to go to college these days.”
She heaped praise on the foundation for serving as a funnel for private donors and organizations that want to support students.
“They’ve been doing this for so long,” Shelton said. “They put my parents through college.”

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