By TALIA WIENER
The Montclair Scholarship Fund awarded $282,000 to graduating seniors this year, the highest amount in the organization’s history. There are 48 scholarship recipients for 2020-2021, selected from a pool of 100 applicants.
For 2019-2020, the fund awarded $201,000 to 45 recipients, selected from 116 applicants.
Students apply to the fund after having been accepted into college. They provide their transcripts and financial forms for the applications.
“They’ve done all the heavy lifting and [are] getting to ‘OK, I’m in college now,’” Montclair Scholarship Fund Co-President Mimi Wrede said. “And we see them now to help fund the tuition.”
Nine of the scholarship winners are the first of their families to go to college. Recipients are attending 38 different colleges, including five New Jersey public colleges. A ceremony for the students was held on June 17.
Wrede and Co-President Leeta Jordan said the scholarships, a majority of which are $5,000, cover only a fraction of the cost of four years of college.
“Even though it’s an all-time high, we still couldn’t help everyone that we wanted to help,” Jordan said. “The gap between the amount that students have and the amount that they need to borrow even with our scholarship is still a mess.”
Montclair High School alumnus Zach Bermack helped to create a video in which scholarship donors and recipients spoke about their experiences with the fund. The video was used as a fundraising tool this year but also as a way to share the stories of those involved, Wrede said.
Montclair has resources unlike any other place, 2019 scholarship recipient and New York University student Kimoni DePass said in the video.
“Be persistent and go for everything,” DePass said in the video, addressing current high school students. “Let the people who make the decisions tell you ‘No, don’t count yourself out.’”
DePass was awarded the Connors Family Scholarship and the Class of 1986 Leadership and Legacy Award.
Rutgers student Nguenar Ndiaye, recipient of the 2019-2020 Clem Taylor Journalism Scholarship, told Montclair Local she thinks students should apply for the scholarships. Applications this year were available in February and March, with information at montclairscholarshipfund.org.
“It’s one application to many scholarships,” Ndiaye said. “Why not give it a shot?”
The fund’s scholarship can help students who may feel crushed by the cost of college, donor Izumi Hara said in the video.
“In a vibrant, economically diverse community like Montclair, the added need-based element of the Montclair Scholarship Fund is critical to opening up the college experience to many of our graduating seniors,” Hara said.
Wrede and Jordan hope to expand the fund’s donor base from its current 323 community members. Moving forward they plan to integrate corporate sponsorships, collaborate with more businesses and possibly create an advisory board to assist with expanding the fund’s reach.
“In a town of 40,000 residents, we need to be getting a lot more people engaged and helping out with this,” Wrede said.
Montclair Scholarship Fund recipients this year will attend the following colleges and universities: American University, Arcadia University, Bard College, Berklee College of Music, Caldwell University, California Polytechnic State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Catawba College; Clark Atlanta University, College of William & Mary, Dickinson College, Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Hampton University, Harvard University, Howard University, Ithaca College, Mansfield Hall, Montclair State University, NJIT (Newark), NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Occidental College, Rhode Island School of Design, Rider University, Rutgers School of Engineering, Rutgers University, School of Visual Arts, St. Joseph’s College, St. Elizabeth University, Stockton University, Syracuse University, Temple University, Towson University, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, University of Santa Cruz.