On Saturday night, two former Columbia High School students explained how scholarship money from the CHS Scholarship Fund was making their dreams come true.
Brianna Rampersad told the story of how her family withdrew financial support for her college education just as she was ready to start her studies and well after the CHSSF application deadline.
“I literally had no alternative, no Plan B,” said Rampersad. “I would have to defer attending without the shortfall and work until I could afford to attend.”
However, CHSSF organizers heard of her plight and allowed her to apply. “This entire experience has deeply and profoundly changed me in ways too emotional to list,” said Rampersad. “For this, I am eternally grateful…. They chose to believe in me and I am on my journey to do big things in the world.”
“This scholarship is a blessing to me,” said Silverne, who grew up in Haiti — “a country where not everybody has a chance to continue with higher education” — before coming to South Orange and Maplewood.
Silverne said that the scholarship has given her confidence: “I am blessed to know that I have another family that is willing to invest in me and believes that I will succeed in life.” Silverne will graduate with an Associate Degree from Union County College next summer and will continue on to a four-year university to earn her bachelors degree.
Rampersad and Silverne told their stories at a fundraiser for CHSSF at the Maplewood home of Tom and Jeanmarie Kerns.
Under the direction of President Joan Lee (South Orange’s September Villager of the Month), the amount of scholarship money granted by CHSSF has risen dramatically. A chart at Saturday’s events showed a rise from $59,600 in 2009 to $136,900 in 2014 when 104 graduates of CHS received scholarship money.
The Columbia High School Scholarship Fund was established 85 years with the “sole purpose of providing financial assistance to Columbia High School seniors and graduates needing help to pay for higher education of any kind,” according to chssf.org.
“Many of our recipients are the first in their families to attend college and the scholarships they receive are an integral part of helping them reach this goal,” reads the website. “Over the years grants have been made to students attending two or four year colleges, nursing schools, beauty schools, trade or technical schools, as well as graduate schools.”
The fund is governed by a group of community volunteers independent of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education. All contributions are tax-deductible.
To find out more about CHSSF — to volunteer, donate or apply — visit chssf.org.