Helping today’s youth GRASP infinite opportunities
By: J. Alexander
Uh oh! College is knocking on your child’s door…. in just a few short years, college applications, essays, and college life will be a reality. For college, to really be a reality, financial aid is a key factor in a student’s college career. About two-thirds of full-time undergraduate college students receive some type of financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, loans or work-study. Approximately 38 percent of financial aid dollars awarded to undergraduates are in the form of federal loans, and the rest are grants, scholarships, federal work-study, and tax credits and deductions. Despite all the news stories about rising college prices, a college education is more affordable than most people believe.
The GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc. (GRASP) is helping these dreams of college become a reality and wants students and parents to learn about financial aid so they can reach their academic goals.
Mission of GRASP
GRASP is a non-profit, charitable, college-access organization that assists students and families in obtaining funding for post-secondary education.
GRASP will help students and their families, regardless of their financial resources and at no charge to them, develop an educational plan by:
- Assisting them with the financial aid process;
- Awarding and administering scholarships;
- Inspiring them to believe that post-secondary education is attainable; and
- Supporting them during the completion of their post-secondary education.
Our goal is to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity for continuing education after high school, regardless of financial or social circumstances.
GRASP advisors are placed at participating Virginia high schools and schools for students with disabilities. They are adept at navigating the college financial aid system and the processes required to make a post-secondary educational plan a reality. Advisors work without charge to the students and their families primarily through individual in-school meetings. They also present financial aid seminars in libraries and other public forums.
Paying for College with GRASP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfZ21xdo1iw
GRASP’s reach spans an increasing number of public and private schools in Virginia and is distinguished by its policy of channeling more than 50% of its resources to those who have significant financial challenges.
Regardless of a family’s circumstances, GRASP financial aid advisors help students overcome challenges to participating in the dream of an education after high school.
“I am the first in my family to graduate from college. GRASP is a wonderful organization that helps students like me attain post secondary education. I knew that I was going to college, I just didn’t know how. My GRASP Advisor helped me with the college application process and helped me receive all of the financial aid that I qualify for. I am very grateful for everything that GRASP has done for me and my family and I hope to one day give back to the organization that gave me so much.” says Selma Avdic.
Avdic has been associated with GRASP from her senior year in high school through all of her college years (graduated U of R last spring.) She is now at Virginia Commonwealth University completing an accounting program.
GRASP was founded in 1983 by Senator Walter Stosch, a longtime advocate for children, and Dr. Ray Gargiulo, a career educator, who saw the need for assisting and advising students in the development of an educational plan for after high school. Since its beginning, the program’s core has been in-school advisors coaching students and parents, presenting financial aid education in school classroom settings, and delivering financial aid seminars in libraries and other public forums.
FAFSA Season is Here!
GRASP also provides weekly financial aid advising services, and specially FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) assistance, in public schools, at no cost to the students/families.
How to Fill Out a FAFSA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRyXfUStHO0
GRASP advisors assisted over 6,000 students, individually, in the 2013-14 academic year. GRASP advisors are in all of the Richmond city and surrounding area public schools, as well as other parts of the state.
In the 2014 – 2015 school year, GRASP expanded to 76 schools from Bath County to Sussex County to Colonial Beach, due to increased demand for our advising services. GRASP has expanded it services over the years to include College Success, Last Dollar Scholarships, Community Outreach, SOAR Virginia®, and the Dominion Student Worker Program.
GRASP’s College Success Program seeks to increase the college graduation rate for GRASP students and scholarship recipients by:
- helping them re-file financial aid AND scholarship forms each year
- providing valuable tips regarding internships and summer jobs
- acting as a liaison between the college financial aid offices and the students should a problem arise
- awarding scholarships for students with unmet financial need
Community Outreach includes Saturday at the Library. The next event is Saturday, March 7, 2015 at the Richmond Public Library Main Branch. Call (804) 527-7772 to make an appointment. Saturday at the Library really helps students and parents become more knowledgeable about the aid possibilities available to them. Both students and schools benefit from students getting a better education. Students not being able to get financial aid could result in colleges losing great students.
SOAR Virginia® is an Early Commitment Scholarship Program created and funded by Virginia529 College Savings Plan to inspire and assist high school students to reach their post-secondary education goals. To participate, eligible students pledge to meet program requirements. In return, students receive a range of assistance and may accumulate scholarship support of up to $2,000 to apply toward their post-secondary education expenses.
In GRASP participating schools, 647 students have participated in the program; 96% are on track to graduate.
Ten high school students are participating in Dominion Virginia Power’s student worker program this summer. This is a paid program, very similar to an internship, whereby GRASP students are engaged for a summer work session and are placed in positions within fields of their interest.
Provided students have satisfactory performance, they may be extended an offer to return the following summer to participate in Dominion’s internship program. The ultimate objective is for the student to be offered full-time employment with Dominion upon completion of post-secondary education, if opportunities exist.
Six GRASP students who participated in the partnership last summer have returned this summer as part of Dominion’s internship program.
“My GRASP representative helped me with the transition into college with advice on FASFA and finding scholarship opportunities. GRASP also helped me to land an internship with Dominion Power. After finishing two associate’s degrees, I was able to start a career at Dominion Power with the help of the internship experience I received through GRASP.” Says Casey Osborne, who started working full time with Dominion this past fall.
GRASP is making dreams reality for sure. And, in this day and age, it’s time for every child to have the opportunity to go to college. For more information on GRASP events, to make a donation and other financial aid information, visit: www.grasp4va.org or call (804) 527-7726.