Thanks to young philanthropists joining forces with their elders, 15 Jewish students from the area are getting help paying for their college books.
The recipients, selected by Jewish Family and Children Service of Greater Mercer County, have received grants ranging from $250 to $1,000, according to need. Six of the students are just starting college; nine are already midway through their degrees.
The program, funded through the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer, this year has been able to increase its support with gifts from the Jewish Community Youth Foundation.
Regie Roth, JCFS’s coordinator of special events and volunteer services, said that as long as the students show proof that they are still enrolled, they can apply for renewal of their grant throughout the four years of their undergraduate studies.
The grants are given in complete confidentiality, but Roth explained that the recipients — all local residents — were selected over the summer by a scholarship committee appointed by JFCS.
Committee members considered need, merit, and community involvement. Some applicants came on their own to JFCS; some were referred by the guidance departments at their schools. All had to demonstrate family need.
“It’s fantastic to be able to help,” Roth said, especially with college costs rising so fast.
One of the recipients wrote to JFCS and the foundation: “I just wanted to take the time to tell you all how much I appreciate your continued support of me through your book scholarship. It is far from easy to perform in college with its rigorous schedule, but your scholarship certainly helps.
“Aside from classes, I’d like you to know that I have become a Jewish leader on campus,” continued the grant recipient. “I attend Hillel events with regularity. As a past executive board member [of Hillel], many younger students look up to me and depend on me for help with planning or running events. Thank you for helping make this all possible.”
The JCYF provides teenagers in grades eight-12 with an opportunity to begin their own tzedaka giving. After studying the work of various community philanthropies, the teens decide which organizations will receive contributions from their pooled donations. JCM executive director Julie Davidson Meyers said that while JCYF contributed to the Book Awards Program for the first time last year, its members increased their gift this year fourfold.
“I had the unique opportunity to see how tremendous this was from many angles, “said Mort Cohen of Lawrenceville, a longtime foundation supporter. “My son Ben had been involved with the JCYF from eighth until 12th grade. It was wonderful to watch him strengthen his skills of critical thinking, philanthropy, and decision making.
“As someone who is deeply involved in our local Jewish community,” Cohen said, “it’s wonderful to see such meaningful end results from thinking critically and strategically about charitable giving.”
The JCF is the planned-giving arm of the federation.
Local donors have dedicated funds to education at the foundation since 1969, said Meyers.
“Clearly education is valuable and the need to help those seeking education always remains a priority. We are here to help people leave their legacy and make a positive impact on our community and are so grateful to all who made this possible,” she said.
She added that there are currently six restricted funds held at the foundation dedicated to the Book Awards Program. The foundation is actively seeking more.
Those interested in applying for the Book Awards Program for next year can contact Roth at 609-987-8100, ext. 117 (applications must be in by May 31). For more information, go to www.jfcsonline.org. For more information on JCYF, go to jewishpmb.org/section.aspx?id=970.