Pali College Center & Optimists Seek Funds To Help “Gap” Students Headed To College

Left to right: Chimeire Ikegbu – CSU Los Angeles, Amir Ebtehadj – UC Berkeley, Optimist Rich Wilken, Jorge Morell – CSU Channel Islands, Cienna Milton – UCLA, and Pierre Thibodeau – UC Santa Barbara. Photo: Courtesy.

By Staff Writer

Heading off to college is challenging enough, but for a number of hard-working Palisades Charter High School students who’ve garnered full or nearly-full ride scholarships, the challenge doesn’t stop there.

Each year as the school’s College Center assists with applications and essays the staff often comes to grips with students who are without financial support at home. Counselor Ruth Grubb explains, “Many of our top students are offered scholarships for merit or need but there is always a gap between the actual out-of-pocket cost and the scholarships or grants they receive. We see numerous students with a financial shortfall for necessities that we in the Palisades take for granted. Many must pay for everything on their own; there is no help from parents. About one-third of this year’s seniors come from families having economic difficulties: sometimes a parent has died or there’s been an illness in a family that has tapped any extra resources.”

This is where the Suitcase Fund, started by volunteers and championed in its third year with the Pacific Palisades Optimist Club, has done much to help. This year the Optimist Club is once again seeking donations from the community to help those college-bound students who qualify.
Working with the College Center, money from The Suitcase Fund (formerly known as the “Off to College” fund) helps students pay for the overlooked necessities of entering college, such as dorm blankets, linens, warm clothes, if needed, a suitcase and toiletries.

The program got started in 2013 when four female students received full-ride scholarships to a Minnesota college. Their families were strapped for cash just dealing with the cost of getting them halfway across the country. But each student still needed winter clothing, suitcases and bedding. One resident stepped up and wrote a check that helped the girls.

Four years later, many local residents have helped out and last year The Suitcase Fund raised its highest amount yet: $13,500.

“We are asking residents to help support a valuable community asset, Pali High and its students,” says Optimist Don Scott. “By giving a hand to these economically challenged but talented college-bound students, we can feel certain that we’re upping the odds that each PaliHi alumnus will succeed.”

This year Suitcase organizers would like to double its financial goal and is asking residents to consider donating, large or small, with 100 percent of the contribution going directly to the students either as direct grants or gift certificates.”

The campaign will run through May 15. Since privacy issues surround the students, the school’s College Center counselors determine privately which students who have scholarships to four-year colleges have a “gap” need.

Checks can be made to the Palisades Optimist Foundation (tax ID # 95-4706527), with Suitcase Fund in the notation and sent to P.O. Box 242, Pacific Palisades 90272, or online at: palisadesoptimistfoundation.org/contact and go to the donate button. Readers can also contact suitcasefund@gmail.com with any questions.

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