Viewpoint: Kudos for the ‘Off to College’ Fund

By Sue Pascoe

Resident Dan Clement, the founder of College Bound Today, shared a May 12 New York Times article “This Year’s College-Bound Essayists and Their ‘Beautiful Contradictions.'” 

In her college essay, Montebello student Ida Felipe, who plans to attend Cal State Fullerton, wrote that younger siblings ask her to play superheroes while she’s trying to do her homework, and “My mother sings loudly, off key. ‘Somewhat sheepishly, she stops and asks me if doing my work in a quieter place would be better for me. I insist that it wouldn’t, that without all the noise from my siblings I would surely fall asleep.’”

The Times writer notes that according to college admissions directors, most essays don’t sound like Felipe’s—but should. The essay prompt is open-ended, which allows a senior to speak in an unique voice and tell a story that doesn’t appear on a high school transcript or a teacher’s recommendation letter.

For the past three falls, I’ve volunteered in the Palisades High School College Center as a writing coach. I see my job not so much as someone looking at grammar or spelling (also important), but as someone who urges kids to tell their story.

Most of the students I see are those whose parents can’t afford a writing coach. At our first meeting, they generally bring in an essay, but it doesn’t tell me anything about the kid. We then spend time together as I ask about their family, what they like to do in their spare time, where they live and what they dream about.

Some kids don’t have a lot of extra-curriculars—for good reasons. Not only do they travel an hour or longer to get to PaliHi, but often they have a part-time job, or have to watch siblings and make dinner when they get home from school. When school is not in session or on the weekends, the kids might have to help a father who has a landscaping business or a mother who cleans.

Some of these seniors come to PaliHi because their mothers sacrifice time with their own kids to watch children of Palisades parents. Why? One story came out that even though the student’s mother spent most holidays and weekends away from her own children—and wasn’t compensated much—she was able to use a Palisades home address that enabled her kids to attend school here.

I hear stories that are not always complimentary about residents and the way “help” is treated. Interestingly enough, there is no bitterness from the kids, who state things matter-of-factly. I’m the one who is appalled.

But—there are some great Palisadians, and the News would rather honor them. Last year when our newspaper wrote about kids who needed a bit of financial help to bridge the gap between full financial scholarships (e.g., money for winter clothes, college bedding and dorm- room accessories), residents sent money to the Pali College Center, which in turn gave those kids Target cards, so they could purchase the items they needed.

This year, Don Scott took on the role for the newly titled “Off to College Fund.” Since Scott is a member of the Optimist Club, it became easier for donations to be made out to the Optimist Foundation (a nonprofit), which forwarded the money to the College Center.

The News recognized a list of donors, but Scott recently informed us: “We just got a very nice check for $1,000 from the Dekernion Family Foundation. In addition, John and Donna Sussman, Don and Carolyn Haselkorn, Richard and Patricia Beltcher, Allen and Marilyn Hanson, and Andy Sahakian should be added to the list of donors. Currently, the total donation is around $7,100.”

The College Center is now matching kids with the money, after reviewing the financial-aid packages students are receiving, and the “mini” scholarships will be handed out around May 24.

“Next year, I would like to expand the scholarship pro- gram and give consideration to giving more scholarships and/or giving scholarships for more than one year,” Scott wrote. “I intend to approach local foundations and also work harder on bringing more realtors into the program. I think this will be an easy sale because local schools are so important to the health of our real estate market.”

The News thanks the residents who supported “our local” students with donations. A special thank you to Don Scott for taking on a project that helps so many by providing what many Palisades parents and college students take for granted.

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