Your child, who just yesterday seemed to be learning to read, going on playdates, and talking about what he wanted to be when he grows up, is suddenly a senior in high school. Peers are making plans. There is talk of 4-year college, community college, technical training, or getting a job. The cost of education is higher than ever, but in most cases, the necessity for additional education is crucial for a good quality of life. So, what’s the next step for you and your student if some type of higher education is your child’s choice after high school? And how in the world will you pay for it?
Fortunately, for public school students and their families in the greater Richmond area and beyond, there is GRASP. Founded in 1983 by Senator Walter Stosch and Dr. Ray Gargiulo, GRASP (Great Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc.) is a nonprofit, education organization operating to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity for continuing education after high school, regardless of financial or social circumstances. Working with students and their parents in area high schools, GRASP advisors provide counseling regarding the college financial aid process.
GRASP advisors have established counseling hours in seventy-four public high schools, including those in the city of Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, and Henrico, such as Thomas Jefferson High School, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Hermitage High School, Thomas Dale High School, and Atlee High School, just to name a few. These advisors talk with students and parents or other family members in classroom and group settings, as well as evening and individual sessions, explaining the overall financial aid process for postsecondary education. After that, individual appointments can be made, free of charge, through the school counseling offices. Through these meetings, GRASP advisors are able to help with the sometimes confusing details of completing various financial aid applications, from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid – the results of which colleges use for determining a student’s financial aid) to the CSS (College Scholarship Service) profile, as well as college scholarship applications. Later, to reach even more teens and their families, GRASP blocks Saturday hours at the Richmond Main Library to work with students one-on-one.
“The people at GRASP want all students to realize there is opportunity for education after high school, despite any challenging financial or family circumstances,” says Bettsy Heggie, CEO of the organization. “GRASP advisors help all students who request assistance. However, students who are financially challenged or who are the first in their families to attend college are especially encouraged to meet with an advisor, as the financial aid process can often be very daunting, and having someone to walk you through the process is comforting.”
Because of donor and foundation support, GRASP is also able to award at least one Last Dollar Scholarship to a student at each GRASP-served school annually. According to Heggie, these scholarships can make it possible for students to attend the school of their choice, as they provide the additional funding families need to buy their kids books or a computer.
“Year after year, GRASP will try to help today’s youth realize infinite opportunities for education success if that’s what they want,” Heggie says. “We would like to see as many students and families as possible realize how GRASP can help them achieve their mission of higher education.”