An article in Forbes magazine reported that the costs associated with attending a four-year college are growing eight times faster than American wages. The report also notes that student loan debt now accounts for the largest chunk of U.S. non-housing debt. Since 2006, as part of a communitywide effort to support college students facing increasing student debt levels and large financial burdens, residents at Linden Ponds, an Erickson Senior Living managed retirement community in Hingham, MA, have raised $2.3 million for their student employees. These funds are awarded as scholarships to help ease the large financial commitment associated with obtaining a college education.
This year, 24 Linden Ponds high school employees each received a $6,000 scholarship. To raise the needed funds, a fundraising campaign was held this past spring under the guidance and support of the resident-composed philanthropy committee.
“Each applicant included a short video that was shared with residents,” says Linden Ponds Human Resource Director Kyleen Farrell, herself a former recipient of the community scholarship. “They commented on what the scholarship would mean for their future and how their lives were affected over the last year.”
Hope Grealish, one of this year’s 2021 scholarship winners, says, “I could go down the list of residents who I have a genuine connection with. They have all helped make me the person I am today. All of the residents have so much wisdom and knowledge. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work at Linden Ponds and am so thankful for the relationships I have made.”
High eligibility standards
Of primary importance to the Linden Ponds community is the ability to award all eligible students who apply with a scholarship. This year, eligibility requires at least 700 hours of service during the student’s junior and senior years of high school. They must achieve satisfactory grades, submit the online application and video, receive recommendations from a manager, and participate in several intergenerational activities designed to raise funds during the fundraising campaign.
“A college education opens doors on history, science, social sciences, and humanities. Greater education brings, one hopes, greater understanding of ourselves, others, the cosmos and our own planet,” says Patricia “Pat” Bianco, community member and philanthropy committee chair. Linden Ponds lifeguard Cameron White was also awarded a scholarship. As a cadet deputy commander of the Civil Air Patrol, Cameron plans to study aeronautical science with the goal of becoming a military pilot.
“As a lifeguard at the pool and fitness center at Linden Ponds, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with multiple residents over the past two years,” he says. “I’ve spoken with many veterans, all of whom told me amazing stories about their experiences during the war. One particular resident told me about his time in the Air Force, which is the military branch that I hope to be a part of. Conversations with residents like these have further inspired me to continue my passion of serving as a pilot in the US military.”
Just like family
The generosity of the Linden Ponds community toward the student employees extends above and beyond the awarding of the scholarships. Each day the students and community members interact on a personal basis providing each other with friendship and support.
“There is a family-type relationship among many residents and students,” says Pat. “Both residents and students tell stories of kindness and caring. Many Linden Ponds residents remember student employees from long ago.”
The students feel the same bond. “The residents are the reason why I want to show up and work hard, especially after a long day at school,” says Alyssa Johnston who is studying finance at Champlain College this fall. “I’m so lucky to see so many wonderful faces. It makes me forget about the hours of homework I have to complete after my shift. Working at Linden Ponds gives me the opportunity to connect with the residents. They feel like part of my family.”
As the students begin a new chapter in their lives, Linden Ponds community members look forward to continuing their support of the youngest staff members.
“Scholarships make a difference,” says Pat. “I recently received a letter from a student who acquired a great job from a famous company. She said that without her scholarship from Linden Ponds, she would never have been able to attend college. Scholarship funds enable students to become the best they can be. Their gratitude, accomplishments, and accolades—give us wonderful treats to nibble on for years.”
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