MEMBERS of the Columbus High School Class of 1958 will conduct their 55th reunion Saturday night. In one respect, they’ll be celebrating it with members of the 1957 class.
They should. They first did this sort of thing back in 2010.
The ties that bind these classes together are money and needs. Members of both classes saw a need, and they came up with money to answer it.
Over the past few years they have donated to a fund administered by the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County. It now has a balance of $37,276.42, give or take a few cents.
Money from that fund is disbursed each year to students experiencing financial hardships that could affect their academic careers.
It’s unique in that it is not considered a scholarship, which in most cases goes to paying tuition costs at colleges or universities. Instead the grants awarded from the fund address some real and little-considered issues that are faced by many low-income families that dream of sending their children to college.
In this case, getting there can be a real obstacle, long before the first tuition payment is due.
Principals of Columbus North and East high schools designate students they deem deserving of the assistance. Both Mark Newell at East and David Clark at North are given some leeway in the selection process as to determining how the money might be spent.
For instance, Newell observed that the money each school receives has been used in a variety of ways.
“We help students pay for such items as the PSAT and PLAN tests, which help prepare them for college entrance exams, such as SAT or ACT,” he said.
The costs for such tests can range between $14 and $75 and having that underwritten by someone else can be of tremendous benefit to a family’s limited income budget. East also sets aside some of its allotment (approximately $685 a year) to help students who can’t pay for college dual-credit courses.
Small as those amounts might seem when compared with traditional scholarship programs, they have a significant effect in leveling the playing field of opportunities for all high school students. Newell noted that “we see the money as a great resource for helping to provide equity for students.”
A similar thought was echoed by Clark. “We used this money (in 2011) to support two of our at-risk students who enrolled in Ivy Tech to take dual-credit classes. Both students completed their course work and indicated that this experience bolstered their confidence in their own ability to do college work.”
North has also used the money to buy special textbooks or supplies for postsecondary courses.
Both schools go the extra mile in getting word to the students about the availability of the money and its potential uses through a program called appropriately enough “Show Me the Money.” It’s advertised in daily bulletins and notices at guidance offices. The good news is that students are applying for assistance and making use of the funds.
Just as interesting as the concept behind the program is how it came about.
It started in 2007 when the 1957 class held its 50th anniversary reunion. Class member Del Newkirk suggested that the occasion be marked with donations from class members to a fund to help students in need.
There must have been a sense of competition between the classes of ’57 and ’58 because the latter group started their own fund when they met for their 50th anniversary a year later. One ’58er even upped the ante. John Head said that he would match dollar for dollar (up to $5,000) contributions made by his classmates.
He had to pay up. By the end of 2008, members of the class of 1958 had donated more than $11,000 to their fund.
The two groups took note of each other and in 2010 elected to combine their gifts into one fund. There have been more than 100 individual donors to the overall program, and both groups want more to chip in. They’ve extended the request to members of all Columbus graduating classes, be they from the original CHS or its offsprings, East and North. Gifts can be sent directly to the Heritage Fund or donated through class officers.
All of this started with the Class of 1957 and was immediately emulated by the Class of 1958.
I don’t know how many graduating classes have their own endowment fund, but I know members of two classes who will be happy to welcome them into their fold.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.