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Edison’s Project HOPE gets $20,000 grant

By Staff | Jul 14, 2011

The United Way continues to support Edison State College’s Project HOPE with an additional $20,000 grant, which will be used for a part-time instructional assistant, school supplies, enrichment workshops and more.
The United Way supports 142 programs and partners with 70 organizations and agencies, President of United Way Cliff Smith said, which has included Project HOPE since 2008 when $10,000 was raised for the project.
Once a year United Way runs a campaign to raise funds for the various programs it supports.
“We are in a cycle now that they are receiving $20,000,” he said about Project HOPE, which will raise the total amount received to $70,000 over five years.
Smith said they continue to fund the program because the project is high quality and managed by very passionate people. In addition, the students are reaching out to the community and going to many of the middle schools and high schools to raise awareness of college to the youngsters.
“They are very appreciative and they go to great lengths to get other kids to follow the same path,” Smith said.
Fredrick Morgan, II, Edison State College Project HOPE director, said due to the continued grant, they have been able to provide more efficient and effective programs for the students.
“It helps at-risk students achieve their long- and short-term goals,” Morgan said about the program. “These are primarily students who are first generation college schools and more likely to drop out of high school without the scholarship. It helps students overcome the fear of failure to find that intestinal fortitude to succeed.”
Morgan said the program began after President Kenneth Walker read about the challenges youths were facing in a newspaper article. He said Walker came up with the idea of the scholarship and turned it into an incentive program to keep students on track to a bright future.
The Project HOPE (Help One Person Excel) Scholarship Program, Morgan said began to become a part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem for potential college students.
The first 30 students to be awarded the HOPE scholarship were hand selected by Walker from the Stars Complex Youth Camp in 1993. Morgan said after that, an application process was initiated and the project became available to all students in the district.
“Since 1993 more than 2,000 students have been awarded HOPE Scholarships district-wide,” he said.
The approximate value of the scholarship for two years is $11,200, which takes care of the student’s tuition, books, along with providing a stipend for them.
Morgan, who has been a part of the program in some capacity since its inception, said the scholarship has really changed the lives of the students and their families. He said for many of the families, an education was seen as almost foreign.
“They cannot believe their child was given this real gift to come to school for free and get an education and have the support program in place,” Morgan said.
More than 300 students applied for the scholarship this past year, which was narrowed down to 130 to be interviewed. Morgan said right now 81 freshman scholar candidates are currently taking a Summer College Success Skills class to help them make the transition from high school to college.
Ashley Gonzalez, 18, a recent graduate of North Fort Myers High School, began her freshman year at Edison State College this summer thanks to Project HOPE. The Cape Coral resident said she heard about the scholarship through her guidance counselor at school and decided to apply.
“I was excited,” she said about being accepted for the scholarship. “It was amazing, a really big blessing for me. The fact that I got this scholarship and it’s paid for is amazing.”
Gonzalez is the first in her family to attend college, which is why the scholarship holds a special meaning.
“For them, (her parents) without this I probably wouldn’t be able to go to college,” she said. “My parents don’t have the means to pay for college. This is a great relief for them.”
Gonzalez is going to pursue a communications major because she wants to travel around the world and be a motivational speaker for young teens.
Matt Ciancimin, 17, also recently graduated from North Fort Myers High School and began taking his College Success Skills Class this summer. He said he heard about the program through a friend and decided to apply.
“I was very excited,” the Cape Coral resident said about receiving the scholarship. “Without it, I probably wouldn’t be able to go to college … I wouldn’t have the funds.”
Ciancimin said overall, he thinks the program is well organized and provides students with a chance to go to college and further their education.
He wants to obtain his bachelor’s degree in business management so he can open his own business one day.
Cape Coral resident Emmanuella Jeannelas, 17, entered her freshman year at Edison State College after graduating from Island Coast High School last month. She said she found out about the scholarship on the school’s website.
Jeannelas said she was very happy to find out she was awarded the scholarship.
“I was shocked and then finally realized it was for real,” she said. “It means a lot.
“Without it, I wouldn’t be able to finish or attend college,” Jeannelas said.
She plans on attending Edison State College for two years before transferring to Florida Gulf Coast University to further pursue a degree in pre-med.
The HOPE AdvancED scholarship is available for students who attend Florida Gulf Coast University as well.
“I really want to go to college and make my parents happy and later help them out,” she said.
Once the students complete the summer class with a “C” or better they will be awarded the HOPE Scholarship at an awards program on Aug. 12.
There are approximately 120 returning sophomore scholars who are a part of the program as well.