22 South Portland graduates get scholarships from grassroots group

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Twenty-two high school graduates who would have otherwise gone without scholarships this year received some financial assistance, thanks to a local initiative launched in 2007.

Project Scholarship started two years ago with the goal of giving every high school graduate a $2,000 scholarship for each of the first two years in college.

Co-Chairman Ralph Cabana said the graduates were selected because they had applied for – and did not receive – traditional scholarships through the high school program. 

Cabana said the group was able to reach its $4,500 fundraising goal this year, despite the sputtering economy. Those donations, he said, were mostly the result of direct mailings to local businesses, individuals and alumni. 

“We were very pleased with the response,” Cabana said. “It’s very gratifying to realize the breadth of support in the community for our kids and what they’re doing.” 

Last year, Project Scholarship handed out more than 40 scholarships, averaging $100 each. This year, the students each received scholarships of $200, Cabana said.

During its first year, Project Scholarship raised more than $25,000 through grants and corporate donations. About $20,000 was invested into what the group hopes will become a multi-million-dollar endowment fund administered by the Maine Community Foundation, a statewide philanthropic organization. 

The high school typically administers about $85,000 worth of scholarships annually, but there are typically 15 to 30 students who seek financial aid and do not get it. Cabana said those are the students the program hopes to reach. 

“Our immediate goal is to ensure that all graduates who apply for a local scholarship receive one,” he said. 

Guidance Counselor Linda Sturm said she hopes the $200 scholarships will be enough assistance to help high school graduates become college graduates. 

“We hope that by decreasing the out-of-pocket expenses and loans, we will encourage more SPHS students not only to go to college, but also to persist to graduation,” Sturm said. 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net