LaGuardia's scholarship program pays dividends
by Lois Barrett
Mar 02, 2010 | 5523 views | 0 0 comments | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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LaGuardia Community College students at a campus computer station
When LaGuardia Community College student Michelle Osorio, 26, received a phone call informing her that she had been chosen to receive a scholarship of $3,500, she was ecstatic.

The call came last January, and the scholarship funds, now available, have made a vast difference for Osorio. They have paid her tuition in full for the academic year and relieved her of the worry that plagued her.

“It was intense,” said Osorio of her time at LaGuardia pre-scholarship. “I had to work and I was always just worried, hoping I had enough for my monthly [tuition payments].”

The same annual scholarship fundraising drive that led to assistance for Osorio is underway now for the second time at LaGuardia. Launched last week, it is scheduled to run through May 31.

The initiative, called “Spring Into Action,” will raise funds for student scholarships of $3,500 each. LaGuardia’s annual tuition is $3,400, so the funds, just like in the case of Osorio, will cover tuition for a year.

“This makes a significant difference for out students,” said E. Ramone Segree, vice president for Institutional Advancement.

The average household income of a LaGuardia student is $25,000 per year, which means that most of the college’s students need financial aid.

According to Segree, many of the students must work - and not just to pay tuition. Many of the students “are working and have families,” said Segree. “Some are working one, two, three jobs.”

Osorio, a veterinary technology major, who helps to support her mother financially, was initially working full-time while attending classes. Once she received the scholarship, she was able to scale back. “I was able to cut down my work hours and focus on what was more important,” Osorio said, indicating her studies.

Last year’s drive raised $30,000 from friends and colleagues of the LaGuardia Foundation’s board members, as well as from faculty, staff, alumni, and local businesses.

The current goal is to surpass the $30,000. “We haven’t put a dollar goal on [the campaign], but we say to ourselves we want to raise in excess of $50,000,” said Segree.

A separate arm of the drive will focus on raising funds for textbooks to meet the City University of New York’s (CUNY) Textbook Challenge in which CUNY will match dollar-for-dollar all gifts made to the textbook fund up to $110,000.

Yes, the current financial landscape makes fundraising challenging, but Segree said they are widening the pool of prospective donors and are creating greater visibility for the drive.

“People are more careful about their giving,” he said, but the college emphasizes that “whatever level of support they can give we still need.”

Osorio, who is set to graduate in September 2010, wants to see this and future campaigns succeed. She said studying without worrying about money makes all the difference.

“To be able to study and learn without being worried,” said Osorio, “just to have that out of your head, I hope they [the donors] understand how helpful this is.”
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