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Changing lives one student at a time

Ashby Ponds’ scholars’ fund promotes intergenerational connections

Created date

July 28th, 2015
student car wash at Ashby Ponds
student car wash at Ashby Ponds

Although she did not know it at the time, Ashley Wood’s life changed forever the day she accepted a position as a member of the dining services staff at , an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va.

“I was a high school student at Briar Woods High School when I began working at Ashby Ponds,” says Wood, who recently completed her first year of study at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). “I liked the fact that so many of my peers worked here and that the managers recognize and accommodate students’ schedules and academics.”

As a student member of the dining services staff, Wood was eligible to apply for the Ashby Ponds scholarship, funded entirely by the community members she serves. Recently, she learned that she is one of 17 students awarded scholarships for the coming school year.

“My mother is disabled and paralyzed from a stroke,” she says. “Money is tight as both my father and I pay for her medical services and bills. Since I am already in college, I used the last of our money to pay for my last semester, so my father, who is overworked and often stressed, can be unburdened with paying for my academic career. This scholarship will help pay for the coming semester while allowing me to work and earn enough for the following semesters.”

Meaningful support

Since 2010, the Ashby Ponds scholars’ fund has raised more than $325,000 in support of 57 student employees. All of the recipients work for the community’s dining services department, most as servers.

To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must work at least 1,000 hours during their time at Ashby Ponds, without any adverse disciplinary actions on record, maintain at least a C average, and complete all application materials. The $4,000 scholarships are paid directly to the college or trade school of the recipient’s choice.

Throughout the year, the Ashby Ponds community creatively raised funds in support of the scholars fund through a duck derby and resident fashion show.

“The residents’ generosity shows that they care about the student employees and recognize the importance of higher education,” says Ashby Ponds community member Joan Peacock, the philanthropy committee chair.

The students also do their part to raise money for the scholars’ fund, washing cars at the annual car wash, which raises more than $1,000 each year. Community members frequently line up half an hour before the event begins and continue to filter in steadily throughout the day.

New ways to support

This year, for the first time, individual residents and resident groups had the opportunity to “Sponsor a Scholar” for $500 a semester. Those who chose to donate were assigned a scholar and a semester to sponsor. 

“The program provides the opportunity to make a more personal one-on-one connection with a scholar,” says Ashby Ponds Philanthropy Manager Deborah Cannatella. “It’s also a great way for the resident donors and students to get to know each other better.”

“Getting to know the Ashby Ponds residents is the best part of my job,” says Wood. “I enjoy seeing them smile and share their stories. One resident recently shared with me how he took a date to the opening of Gone With the Wind in the 1930s. It was amazing how vividly he remembered the event. And the best part—his date eventually became his wife whom I also served.”

Personal connections

These one-on-one connections are the reason why the Ashby Ponds scholars’ fund continues to raise enough money each year to award each eligible student a scholarship.

“Our student employees are hardworking, and most are planning to further their education,” says Joan. “The scholars’ fund allows the residents a chance to provide some financial help to achieve their goals. It’s also our way of showing them how much we appreciate their service.”

For her part, Wood and all the student employees are grateful for the opportunities the residents’ generosity provides.

“After I finish my studies at NOVA, I plan to transfer to a university to obtain my bachelor’s in nursing,” she says. “Financially, I could not have done this without the help of so many wonderful Ashby Ponds residents who take an interest in my life and my future.”