At the 3rd annual Promise Gala Saturday at the Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall, donors, scholarship recipients, and community members will come together to celebrate the Charlottesville Scholarship Program—a foundation that makes financial gifts to help low- and moderate-income citizens further their education.
“The scholarship program shows a commitment to education at a high level in local government,” Charlottesville School Board Chair Juan Wade said. “It’s a commitment to education for kids finishing high school, but also for that person who has been working as a certified nursing assistant for 10-20 years, but now wants to go back to school and become a registered nurse.”
Faced with a 2001 budget surplus and calls from the community to invest in the City’s future, City Council allocated $250,000 to start the program, which has provided 82 scholarships to-date, and is currently assisting 30 people.
Adults and recent graduates of Charlottesville City Schools, as well as CCS and City employees are eligible for the partial scholarships that usually increase each year and renew until a student graduates.
Scholar and Charlottesville High School graduate Rickquan Jones, who now studies sports management at George Mason University, said that support symbolizes more than money.
“The program has been very supportive, and not just financially,” Jones said. “They are also a support system if we need someone to talk to.”
Scholar Tara Ingram, who is majoring in psychology through the adult education program at Mary Baldwin College, said the CSP is helping her continue her studies in the summer semesters when federal financial aid isn’t available.
What’s more, Ingram said, is the motivation of knowing that an anonymous person cares.
“I’ve never considered it as money, I consider it as motivation to get up and go to class and study and keep going,” Ingram said. “It’s a bridge for us that someone else has created.”
In addition to the financial support, board members also mentor recipients during their tenure in school.
“I’m really blessed to have Juan [Wade] as a mentor,” Jones said. “We’re in constant contact by email, phone calls, and texts, and he checks up on me weekly and offers advice about staying focused on my studies.”
Saturday’s gala will serve as a fundraiser for the CSP—the first two galas have raised over $60,000—and an awards ceremony.
This year the CSP will honor Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins with the Russell M. Linden Promise Award. Named in honor of CSP co-founder and board member, the award recognizes community members who help create opportunities for Charlottesville’s students to build futures for themselves.
"No one better exemplifies what the CSP stands for than Dr. Atkins," Seaman said. "She has inspired the city's students to achieve their best and to reach for their dreams."
“Dr. Atkins was chosen for her commitment to education,” Wade said. “The person who the award is named after, Russell Linden, had a strong commitment to creating opportunities for all citizens, and that’s what she’s done since becoming superintendent in 2006.”
As highlights to Dr. Atkins’ tenure, Wade noted CCS’s commitment to the arts, as well as the innovative STEM partnership CCS has developed with the University of Virginia, which will offer students at Buford Middle and Charlottesville High schools opportunities to learn 3D printing and advanced manufacturing skills.
Additionally, in 2011 Atkins was named Region V Superintendent of the Year, and in 2012, Virginia Superintendent of the Year.
"On behalf of the teachers, administrators, and staff members I work with, I'm humbled to be honored by the Charlottesville Scholarship Program,” Atkins said. “The organization is a perfect partner for Charlottesville City Schools, providing the financial resources that make it possible for deserving CCS graduates and others to continue their education."
"We are grateful for the support this program has received from the community since we launched our first Promise Gala to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CSP," Seaman said.
"We chose the name of the gala to show that the community has made a promise to its students that we will help them to help themselves by furthering their educations," Seaman added, "and we will keep our promise."