By Jordan Rosenthal
The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify. Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity–that it’s this or maybe that–you have just one large statement; it is this.” Chinua Achebe, Author
Chappaqua has a certain reputation. The public education system is prestigious, reputable, yet costly. Students are accepted into a wide spectrum of colleges and universities, many of which have hefty tuitions. Contrary to the generalization that all citizens of Chappaqua are wealthy, not all families can afford to send their children through college un-aided. There is no greater indication of this than the dependence on the Horace Greeley Scholarship Fund.
HGSF began in 1946, when the Horace Greeley High School senior class donated $300 to start a fund for students who needed help paying for college. As word spread, community groups and residents from all socio-economic levels united to provide financial aid to those who needed it. Today, community members donate to HGSF through private solicitations, mailings, and well-attended fundraising events.
The Higher Cost of Higher Education
Today, fewer students can pay for college with its high tuition. The average cost of a private university is about $50,000 annually, roughly five times the sum 30 years ago. According to many financial aid sources and economic indicators online, annual college tuition inflation rates average 8%, double the general inflation rate. When faced with these daunting numbers, where can one seek financial assistance? Scholarships are not within the reach of many students. Certain schools are affiliated with organizations and foundations willing to loan, and state and national organizations and private firms and banks lend to students. About two in three students receive some amount of government assistance for college, but these loans have agonizing interest rates and often snare people into suffocating debt. According to Forbes.com, the average student has about $23,000 of student loan debt to pay off when they graduate!
HGSF: Chappaqua’s Special Resource
But there is an alternative for Chappaqua students demonstrating need. The HGSF donates financial aid to many students who would otherwise have their skills go to waste without a higher education. HGSF fundraising and grants are more important than ever, with the global economic recession and the increase in the value of a college diploma when searching for a job in a struggling market.
Applications are up 50% in recent years, while donations have unfortunately decreased by 13%. When tragedy or troublesome times strike, whether by divorce, unemployment, sickness or death, or if a family just cannot make ends meet, HGSF’s potential assistance is integral. Over the past six years, 167 students have received more than $973,000 in total. These students and their families look to their neighbors and fellow Chappaqua citizens when they need help, and many who can help, do.
Not Everyone in Chappaqua is Affluent
So the stereotype has been disproved. While many residents appear financially comfortable, living in Chappaqua does not directly correlate with affluence and the ability to pay for college independently, attested to by the number of HGSF applications. Indeed, many students need the services of organizations like HGSF to bridge the gap between out of pocket and loaned money, and the actual tuition for the schools they have worked so hard to get into.
We live in a world where people are judged with only slight awareness of facts, and extreme weight is put on the opinions and rumors of others. It is akin to racism and sexism to assume socio-economic levels of people since our country does not geographically segregate the different tiers. Ignorance cannot be seen as bliss when we speak about our own neighbors; we all must support each other in order to maintain the positive image we have earned thus far. The next time you are faced with stereotyping, for better or for worse, how will you act?
Jordan Rosenthal is now a sophomore at Horace Greeley High School.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.hgsf.org