Until this year, high school senior Rachel Knight had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation.
Then a $2,500 Chuck Shepard Memorial Scholarship from the New Haven Scholarship Fund (NHSF) made her confident in her decision to attend the Paier College of Art in the fall.
The Cooperative Arts and Humanities student (pictured) was one of 151 high-school seniors awarded with almost $230,000 in scholarship money at the NHSF’s annual award ceremony. Friends, family, donors and recipients gathered at the United Church on the Green at 5 p.m. Sunday for the awards.
“This is a lot more than I expected to get,” said Knight. The extra money means she will be taking out fewer loans to pay for college expenses. Knight plans to major in fine art and wants to open a business in the future to sell her drawings.
This year celebrates the fund’s 55th year providing financial assistance to students pursuing a post-secondary education. It was started in 1959 by Hillhouse High School math teacher Jean Lovell, who believed children of New Haven deserved the opportunity to continue their education without financial constraints.
In the fund’s first year, Lovell and her husband George were able to award eight $100 scholarships. Since then, over 7,000 New Haven students have been awarded over $7 million in aid, and the numbers continue growing every year.
Lovell passed away in 1996 at the age of 102. NHSF President Jim Barber, a member of the Fund’s board since 1968, said people still strongly believe in her passion to lessen the financial burden on students.
Barber knows this better than anyone. While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), Barber was on the verge of dropping out. Not because he couldn’t afford tuition, but because schoolbooks were just too pricey.
After getting Lovell’s phone number from a friend, Barber gave her a call and explained his situation. Three days later, much to the surprise of Barber, a $62 check arrived in the mail, enough to purchase the textbooks he needed.
“She had bailed me out,” Barber said. “[The Fund] provided me with the incentive to stay in school and finish my education.”
Barber returned to SCSU to coach football and track and field in 1964, and later to teach in 1969. He currently works there in an administrative position. Now he helps the fund collect donations to help subsequent generations of students.
Also in attendance Sunday night was Mayor Toni Harp, who expressed her gratitude for the fund’s ability to assist students on their next big educational journeys, even with college getting more expensive each year.
“College is in everyone’s reach,” Harp said. “A more educated New Haven is one prepared for the 21st Century.”
Angela Lewis, a Hillhouse student and recipient of the $1,500 Claudia Barber Memorial Scholarship this year, said she was glad she took advantage of applying for a Fund scholarship. Lewis will be studying psychology at SCSU in the fall.
Eugene Jones (pictured) of Career High School will follow in the footsteps of his cousins, who were past NHSF recipients in the past. Jones received the $1,000 Dwight and Helen Culler Memorial Fund scholarship and will attend UConn. He plans to study business management and accounting.
The money, Jones said, is enough to eliminate a loan he would have had to take out otherwise.