Opportunity for all
Published 4:21 am Friday, September 28, 2018
We all want a bright future for young people. The question is this: Should it be the responsibility for government, the community, parents or the young person? The answer is that we all are responsible and that if we work together many more will be successful.
At the government level, it is a shared responsibility. The localities provide the buildings while the state is responsible for two-thirds or more of the costs such as teachers and transportation. Likewise, the school system is expected to employ teachers who are qualified and ready to teach every day.
Parents are responsible for getting the student to school well rested and prepared for a successful day in the classroom. Additionally, they are responsible to reinforce the efforts for both academic and social skills taught in the classroom. The student is in turn expected to come to school ready and willing to learn.
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The communities in many cases are ready and willing to step up and assist in many situations. They take many roles, tutoring is one of those. Another that is spreading is the GRASP program.
GRASP is a successful program that has been established in some counties around the state. Localities where a need has been identified and there is a willingness by businesses or individuals to help finance additional assistance. GRASP began with the focus of working with young people showing that there is an opportunity to be successful if they are willing to apply themselves in high school. Sometimes that is by providing additional dollars needed to get into college or receive skilled training. Other times it is assistance filling out the paperwork necessary for financial assistance and to guide students toward those additional resources. The student simply has to maintain good grades and meet with the GRASP coordinator to receive this help.
GRASP is working in Prince George, Brunswick, and Lunenburg counties. Last year, in those three counties they worked with 411 students. Sixty-two percent of those served came from financially disadvantaged households. GRASP advisors assisted 77 students in receiving $47,000 from the SOAR Virginia program at no cost to the state. Students received $6,500 last dollar scholarships for four-year colleges or $1,000 for skills training at our community colleges. Finally, GRASP itself awarded students a total of $5,200 of its own money to the students in those three counties. This year they have added Mecklenburg and Dinwiddie, and they hope to add other counties next year and in following years. These results were made possible by the Neighborhood Assistance Act Tax Credit Program which gives donors an added tax incentive to support the GRASP mission.
All of this is because one individual had an idea. That was former State Senator Walter Stosch who believes that “no one should be denied the opportunity to learn due to the ability to pay.” Walter has been a friend and colleague for many years. Through his efforts, he has attracted involvement from corporations and individuals who are like-minded in wanting to help young people that might not understand where they want to go and how they can afford to get there from financially strapped families.
It was heartwarming when Walter described how they were able to find resources to assist a single mother get two daughters through the University of Richmond with no debt. Hopefully, we will have more stories like that. You can be part of this effort by reaching out to possible sponsors in the other localities of the region.
For more information on GRASP you can find their website at www.grasp4va.org.
Frank Ruff Jr. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.