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DAYTON-MONTGOMERY COUNTY SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM:
Puts College in Reach of Students
When Social Security benefits for many eligible students’ post-secondary education were eliminated in the early 1980s, Ruth Richardson, then director of counseling for Dayton Public Schools, knew she had to do something.
“Parents were coming to me in tears, because they were counting on this money being available to them,” she said. “When it was gone, they were left struggling to find a way to help pay for their children’s college education.”
Through the advice and assistance of community leader John E. Moore, Sr., Mrs. Richardson established the Dayton-Montgomery County Scholarship Program (DMCSP) in 1981 with gifts totaling $25,000. The program provided scholarships to help graduating Dayton Public School students pay for their first year at a college, university or trade school. As the fund grew, however, she was able to extend its reach to students attending schools throughout Montgomery County.
“They were small scholarships, a couple of hundred dollars at most for each student, but they gave students the boost they needed," Mrs. Richardson recalled. "Once these students had their foot in the door, they would find a way to pay for their remaining years.”
Word of the program spread quickly, as Ruth Richardson and others went to local companies and donors to ask for financial assistance. It wasn’t long before news of her efforts reached Jesse Philips, a longtime community leader and former chair of The Dayton Foundation’s Governing Board, who surprised her with a $1 million gift to grow the program. Gifts from John W. Berry, Sr., also a former member of the Foundation’s Governing Board, and NCR Corporation, among others, soon followed.
Now a fund of The Dayton Foundation, the DMCSP has awarded a total of $13.7 million in scholarships to nearly 13,000 graduating seniors or students who have received their GED equivalent.
"The demand for financial assistance is increasing continually, especially in Montgomery County," according to Dr. Donald R. Thompson, executive director of DMCSP. "For example, about 75 percent of City of Dayton students come from low-income families, and one in five Montgomery County children live in poverty. Our goal is to get as much money as possible in the hands of students and help close the growing gap between affordability and participation in post-secondary education. We owe it to ourselves to see that everyone has a chance at a brighter future."
“If you are a graduating senior from one of the 29 participating Montgomery County high schools," Dr. Thompson continued, "and have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5, demonstrate financial need and plan to enroll as a full-time student at an accredited college or university in the United States, then you will receive a scholarship. It’s that simple.”
According to Ruth Richardson, DMCSP also opened some students' eyes to the possibility of furthering their education.
“Many of my students didn’t have the encouragement of their family or knew they didn't have the financial means to pay for college, so continuing their education just didn't occur to them,” she said. “This program gave them the opportunity to think beyond their means and to see that it was possible.”
A former DMCSP board member, Mrs. Richardson served an honorary role and continued to promote the program until her passing in 2012. “I’m so proud of what DMCSP has been able to do for these students. They are our future and deserve a chance to further their education.”
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IN HER WORDS
“We opened Charitable Checking Accounts for each of our adult children for Christmas. These accounts will encourage them to think about and support the organizations and causes they care about most. It’s a great way to teach children of any age about the joy of giving.” – Susan Harker, a Charitable Checking Account℠ donor since 1994