YOUR VIEWS | Community Paints Portraits of Success

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To the editor:

It was truly inspiring to see more than 500 citizens, political figures and business and community leaders at the Scholarship Fund of Alexandrias annual Spring Gala on May 9. They were there not only to help support the Scholarship Fund, but also to honor, as we do each year, our Portraits of Success recipients of Scholarship Fund awards who have achieved notable success in their chosen fields.

This years Portraits of Success included: Tacheka Monique Bailey, T.C. Williams Class of 1999, a U.S. Public Health Service Officer; Marie Bangura, T.C. Class of 1996, who overcame severe injuries and is now an Institutional Review Specialist for the U.S. Department of Education; Sarah Fulwiler, T.C. Class of 2002, now a Special Education Teacher at T.C.; Sean Kumar, T.C. Class of 1997, an attorney; and Bruce Milton, T.C. Class of 1991, a successful videographer.

Every year, as it has for more than two decades, the Scholarship Fund helps T.C. graduates like those featured in our Portraits of Success go on to live their dreams of achievement. Few communities in the country have resources like this available. Its easy to see why so many in this city generously support the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria. We thank you all very much.

While we certainly do have much to celebrate, the Scholarship Funds mission and purpose are more important than ever before.

The cost of post-secondary education has skyrocketed in recent years. At the same time, high school dropout rates have climbed to an alarming level. Recent articles in the Washington Post have highlighted these troubling developments. One reported that tuition hikes have resulted in part from dramatic reductions in state funding to public colleges. George Mason Universitys state aid, for example, has been cut about 62 percent over the last 10 years, according to the article. Another reporter chronicled a growing number of students who have had to forego their preferred college choices due to financial limitations a situation affecting even middle income and seemingly affluent families in the current economic climate. And while many students are struggling to pay for college, a growing number of others, regrettably, are not completing high school. A recent Washington Post editorial noted that nearly 9 percent of Virginia public high school students in the class of 2008 had dropped out of school. That number was even higher in Alexandria.

Over the past 24 years, the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria has helped clear some of these obstacles to higher education for our communitys students. Since its inception, the Scholarship Fund has provided more than 3,100 T.C. graduates with more than $6 million in scholarships. On May 28, the Scholarship Fund will be honoring the T.C. Class of 2009 scholarship recipients, who, collectively, will receive more than $360,000 in funds for higher learning this year.

The Scholarship Funds staff also advise scores of T.C. students and their parents every year on how to navigate the complicated maze of financial aid forms and programs so they can take full advantage of other available financial resources. Indeed, for every dollar of scholarships money awarded by the Scholarship Fund each year, our students also receive an additional $6 to $8 of financial aid from other sources, on average.

But our students must remain in high school in order to achieve the promise of higher education. The Scholarship Fund works to address this issue, too. Through targeted outreach to our schools even elementary schools the Scholarship Fund helps sudents form the vision and expectation that they can and will remain in school and pursue post-secondary education. Additionally, countless T.C. students see others just like themselves featured in the Portraits of Success, which adorn the walls of the Scholarship Fund office. Many of those honorees overcame poverty, English language limitations and other challenges to have promising careers in medicine, law, journalism and many other fields. In that way, our Portraits of Success help inspire T.C. students to see that they, too, can attain similar successes.

We at the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria are proud of what we do and are gratified by the generous support our community provides. But to continue to advance our important mission and to build on our successes, we need your help more than ever.

As our students make the most of the opportunities we provide and get ready for college, lets make sure they have the vision of achieving higher education as well as the financial resources to get there. With your help and support, T.C.s hallways from one end to the other will be lined with Portraits of Success.

Arthur E. Schmalz, Board of Trustees
Joan M. Renner, Chair, Board of Trustees
Debbie Wells, Vice Chair
Jeffrey J. McQuilkin, Treasurer
Tim Elliott, Secretary
Michael Porterfield, Past Chair
Scholarship Fund of Alexandria

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