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Finishing college with big dreams,not big Debt

Ashby Ponds residents raise the bar on giving

Created date

September 25th, 2012

Sometimes, saying thank you just doesn t feel like enough, says Jason Allred, a recent graduate from Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va. Jason just started his freshman year at his dream school, Brigham Young University, this past August. Jason is one of 18 high school graduates working at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, who recently received a $4,000 scholars fund scholarship. Since 2010, the Ashby Ponds scholars fund has raised more than $100,000, enough to award 31 scholarships in support of the community s student employees. All of the students work for the community s dining services department as servers, restaurant assistants, utility workers, and service coaches. In order to be eligible for a scholarship, a student must work at least 1,000 hours during their junior and senior years of high school without any adverse disciplinary actions on record, maintain at least a C average, and complete all application materials. The $4,000 scholarships awarded to qualified candidates are paid directly to the college or trade school of the student s choice.

Helping hand

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, the Ashby Ponds scholars fund is an immense help to the students and their families, says Dining Staff Development Manager Lisa Freire. Books alone are hundreds of dollars each year, and this scholarship can help cover these costs and much more. A June article inThe Christian Science Monitorreported that between 1999 and 2009, tuition at public four-year colleges rose 73% on average, and tuition at private nonprofit colleges jumped 34%. In the same period, median family income fell by about 7%. As a result, more students everywhere are taking out loans. Last year, cumulative student loan debt surpassed $1 trillion for the first time, a total that represents more than is owed on credit cards or car loans. Ashby Ponds hopes to help defray as much of these costs as possible through the fund. We also want to ensure that every qualifying student receives a scholarship, says resident Jan Saferstein, who serves on the philanthropy committee that oversees the fund. We want these kids to finish college with big dreams, not big debt. The scholarships awarded this year resulted from personal donations, a student car wash, and the third annual duck derby, wherein residents purchase rubber ducks for $5 and watch as they race, for prizes, in the community s indoor pool. Community members Yoska and Jack LeMair participated in both the car wash and the duck derby. The scholarship program is great and enables us to express our appreciation and encouragement, says Yoska. We very much enjoy the interaction with the students, chatting about their hobbies, sports, and study interests.

Big dreams

For Allred, the dream of attending Brigham Young University weighed heavily on his mind until the day his acceptance letter arrived. All five of my siblings have attended, and I too wanted to carry on our family legacy at the university, he says. Attending the private university in Utah is a large expense, particularly difficult for Jason, who lost his father when he was only seven. Aware of the expense, Jason picked up extra shifts whenever possible in hopes of earning a scholarship. Jason s coworker Briana Veney is also well aware of the financial implications of attending a private university. Working at Ashby Ponds since her freshman year in high school, Veney now attends Lynchburg College. Receiving this scholarship will definitely help me achieve my goals, she says.

More than just money

The support the students receive from the residents is not only financial, says Freire. The students may have been hired viewing this as their first jobs, but they leave with friendships they never knew they would have. They are, simply, priceless memories they will hold forever. Ashby Ponds has exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable, says Allred. The whole atmosphere has made working here a true joy. The residents are so fun to talk to, and I doubt any other establishment surpasses our great management. I loved working at Ashby Ponds throughout high school, says scholarship winner Fiona McDonald, who now attends Virginia Tech. Both residents and fellow employees have become friends, and I look forward to seeing everyone during my breaks. Having the student workers at Ashby Ponds is beneficial to all of us, says community member Margy Smith. We not only enjoy them and appreciate their service, but we also get to know about these young people who are trying to advance themselves and are committed and dedicated to becoming the best that they can be, in whatever area that they feel called to. We also see and appreciate the younger generation at its best polite, thoughtful, caring people who are making a difference in life.