Funds make college more affordable for local students
Crystal Wojcik always dreamed of going to college, but she knew that cost would be a barrier. Undeterred, she saved her wages from part-time jobs and applied for the Emma Miller Scholarship in 2017 to assist with her tuition at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The four-year award followed her through college and helped her graduate debt-free in May.
Crystal decided to stay in the Berkshires and is now the finance director and accountant for her hometown of Adams, where she hopes to inspire young people her age to work in government. “This scholarship helped me move toward my career goal,” she said. “I am grateful and humbled to have received such a prestigious honor.”
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s regional scholarship program of more than 50 funds awarded nearly $700,000 this year to students like Crystal who are pursuing their academic and vocational ambitions. This marks a 6.6% increase in scholarships from 2020, thanks to support from generous donors throughout our four counties.
The majority of these scholarships went to students whose families can contribute $10,000 or less toward college, and nearly 25% were awarded to recipients whose households were unable to provide any financial support. Our investment in educational attainment is addressing the stubborn opportunity gap for students who aspire to attend college but are unable to afford it.
BTCF’s scholarship program continues to grow as residents establish new funds to honor their loved ones and provide pathways toward greater opportunity for young people. Volunteer advisory committees oversee most funds, and their grantmaking gives students “a vote of confidence from the community,” said Amy Taylor, our community engagement officer for education.
The Northeast Dutchess Scholarship Fund, which was established in 2014 through the support of the Walbridge Fund, awards an annual renewable scholarship to a graduate from one of the four local high schools. This year, Robert Wilder of Stanfordville donated $140,000 to ensure that seven additional students will receive funding throughout their four years of college. “Education provides the tools, life skills and self-discipline to help kids get better jobs and be better citizens,” he said.
Thanks to Wilder’s generosity, Xin Wong of Millerton is attending Dutchess Community College for accounting, and he enjoys the freedom to step away from the comfort of his home and “start exploring what I really want to learn.” Aaminah Syed of Pine Plains plans to launch a fashion design business once she graduates from Marist College, where she is thrilled to “join a diverse community and improve myself through higher education.”
A local resident created the renewable Cha-Nel Scholarship Fund more than 20 years ago to support graduates of high schools in New Lebanon and Chatham. This year, the advisory committee granted $30,000 to 15 seniors and nine college students. Margot Schassler of Chatham is halfway through her architectural engineering education at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She said her “career path was made possible by the Cha-Nel Scholarship Fund,” having joined a worldwide architecture and engineering company as an intern last summer. Chatham’s Amara Engel is “exploring and growing” into her own person as she majors in museum studies and minors in both criminal justice and history at Rochester Institute of Technology.
“Paying for eight or more years of higher education would not be possible without your generosity and hope. Your kindness and love will stay within me forever.”
- Madison Tinker, Honorable James P. Dohoney Scholarship Fund recipient
The life-changing Margaret Derwin scholarship is named in memory of a beloved 2005 graduate of Housatonic Valley Regional High School. Each year, a junior there receives up to $25,000 annually toward college tuition and other costs, and $5,000 to participate in an overseas community service program. Taylor Sherwood of Lakeville graduated in May from Quinnipiac University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting thanks to the financial support of the Derwin scholarship. She honed her skills with an internship at Deloitte over the summer, and she is now pursuing her MBA. She hopes to return to the Northwest Corner to “give back to the community” that gave her so much. She said this scholarship “has made what only seemed like a dream turn into a reality.”
The Rhoda Rubin Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund helps nontraditional students and adults pursue nursing degrees at Berkshire Community College. This year, the committee awarded seven scholarships totaling $9,800 thanks to a generous gift from the Cooper Meadow Fund. “I worked hard to get into the competitive nursing program,” previous recipient Caitlin Gelineau said. “I know my education is the key to success. I get to help people and do what I love.”
In southern Berkshire County, the Honorable James P. Dohoney Scholarship Fund has assisted graduating seniors for more than 20 years. The fund honors the legacy of the noted Superior Court judge by aiming to instill in students his ideals of fairness, decency and “service above self.” The committee increased its awards to up to $10,000 to make a meaningful impact on the educational goals of its recipients. Madison Tinker of North Egremont is studying history at Siena College, and she plans to pursue her Ph.D. “Paying for eight or more years of higher education would not be possible without your generosity and hope,” she wrote to the committee. “Your kindness and love will stay within me forever.”
To learn more about our scholarship program or how to open your own fund, contact Amy Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413.229.0370 ext. 107.