COURTESY OF OPRFHS SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION
Over the summer, the Oak Park and River Forest High School Alumni Association and the Oak Park and River Forest High School Scholarship Foundation entered into partnership in order to better serve the Oak Park and River Forest High School community. Together, these organizations will be better equipped to provide financial assistance to the Districts' students in their pursuit of Summer Enrichment programs during their high school career, as well as post-secondary opportunities for the Districts' students following graduation. Both organizations have a rich history of serving the Districts' students and hope that, by working collaboratively, they can expand the number and types of scholarships and Summer Enrichment grants currently being offered to students.
The Oak Park and River Forest High School Alumni Association began back in 2001 when a group of local alums met to discuss the creation of an independent not-for-profit organization that would supported the high school in a variety of ways. In 2002, the Alumni Association gained legal recognition and began pursuing its goal of providing opportunities for alumni to maintain and enhance connections with their classmates and the high school community. Through membership contributions, donations from businesses and grants, as well as the hard work and dedication of its small staff and numerous committed volunteers, this low-budget organization has exceeded the expectations of its founders. The Alumni Association later broadened its mission when, in 2003, it funded five students for a total of $3,500 in Summer Enrichment Grants. The amount of Summer Enrichment Grant funding has now reached $30,000 annually and has become the major focus of the Association. Summer enrichment programs are nationally recognized for their importance in broadening students' learning opportunities, especially for disadvantaged students. About 450 students have now benefited from the Alumni Association's work which has assisted them to take university-level coursework, summer camps, art and music programs, language programs, and other enrichment programs both in the United States and abroad. Most students look back on these experiences as "life-changing."
The Oak Park and River Forest High School Scholarship Foundation first formed in 1926 with the mission of providing post-secondary scholarships to graduating seniors in need of financial assistance. Since that time, the Scholarship Foundation has awarded numerous scholarships to graduating seniors who have demonstrated academic excellence, initiative, leadership, and financial need. Currently, the Foundation is responsible for endowed funds totally in excess of $1.2 million. Due to the rising costs of college and the difficult economic times, these scholarships have become essential to the majority of students who want to graduate with a college degree.In recent years, the Foundation has steadily increased the number of scholarships provided annually, enabled in large part by the generosity of parents, retirees, reunion classes and friends of the high school. At the Foundation's May Honors Convocation, more than $83,000 was awarded through the Scholarship Foundation to sixty-four graduating seniors.
The Alumni Association and the Scholarship Foundation are now partnering so that a more unified approach to student support in both the high school and college years can be offered to students. Alumni Association President Roberta L. Raymond stated that this new partnership has great potential for both organizations and will present the opportunity to grow the Alumni Association's Endowment Fund as more donations are received. Foundation President Regina Kwan Peterson shared this sentiment and stated that once the Foundation Board realized how well the scholarship goals of the two organizations complemented one another, the Foundation Board thought that a partnership would be the natural next step and could not be more delighted to be working with the Alumni Association.
Both organizations survive on the financial support and generosity of the Oak Park and River Forest High School community. Fundraising efforts will take place throughout the year in order to increase the Endowment funds and expand the number and types of scholarships and Summer Enrichment grants offered to the Districts' students. In fact, the Alumni Association is in the midst of a 3-year challenge grant sponsored by an anonymous alum who offered to match $200,000 for a total of $400,000 and to donate an additional $100,000 without requiring a match. Community members Mary Jo and Stephen Schuler are spearheading this fundraising effort.
If you would like more information or would like to make a donation to either organization, please contact Oak Park and River Forest High School Scholarship Foundation President, Ms. Peterson, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Oak Park and River Forest Alumni Association President, Ms. Raymond, at email@example.com.
For additional information contact: Regina Kwan Peterson (708) 646-4331