Tuition Grants Change Lives

Graduating senior Santiago Cuartas received 4 grants.

Last year, Staples Tuition Grants gave away $198,000 to 90 graduating seniors, and alumni already in college.

This year, they set a goal justthismuch higher:  $200,000.

But the economy remains weak, and every organization in town has its hand out.  When the final count was in, they did not give out $200,000.

Try $265,000.

That spectacular leap was accomplished thanks to a supreme effort by the Staples PTA.  Tuition Grants also made special appeals to past donors, reunion classes (new this year), and parents of graduating seniors.

The family of the beloved Lou Santella — who died in February — also gave fundraising a boost.  They named Tuition Grants as a recipient of gifts in Lou’s honor.

Last night, that $265,000 went right back out.  In a moving ceremony, 119 Staples seniors and alumni received grants that, in many cases, can mean the difference between receiving a college degree, or not.

Scott Bennewitz — Staples ’75 — described the difference Tuition Grants made to himself, his 2 siblings and his single mother.

Lee Bollert of the committee choked up describing the memorial award named for Ann Keister and Katy Macieski — best friends killed 3 decades ago, by a drunk driver.

Nellie Stagg — Staples ’09 — spoke with poise and pride of her many activities and projects at UConn.

But the highlight for me was watching so many deserving young men and women receive scholarships named for people I personally knew.  Some died far too early; others led long and fruitful lives.  All are now honored through named gift awards.

Dr. Jean Beasley.  Richard Cion.  Noel de Caprio.  Irwin Donenfeld.  Doug Donovan.  Chuck Elliot.  Sharon Frey.  Jim Gillespie.  Bill Horne.  Michael Kowall.  Phil Schuyler.  Betty and Ralph Sheffer.  Ken Sweetnam.  Joan Wilder.  Ted Youngling.

Their names do not mean as much to the recipients as they do to me.

But that’s okay.

The gifts that they inspired now have the capacity — 5, 15, 40 years later — to impact new lives.

And if, decades from now, today’s recipients pay it forward — as others have done for them — then all the names read aloud last night will truly live forever.

(Click the Staples Tuition Grants website to donate online.  The mailing address is PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881.)

7 responses to “Tuition Grants Change Lives

  1. Marathon Man

    It is nice to see in this day and age of bubbles, bursts, greed and self-indulgence, that the kind heart of charity lives strongly in the hearts of many, especially here in Westport. Plus, I am a big fan of “charity begins at home”. Kudos to all involved: those who give and those who receive.

  2. Without the Staples Tuition Grants given each year, it would not have been possible for my daughter to attend and graduate from The George Washington University and then begin her professional life in Washington DC.

    We are indebted to those who have given and to the Grant Committee members for their unfailingly hard work to help others. The grants do make a difference!

  3. How do these grants work? Are they contributions totally or matched funds?
    Just curious.

    • Igor, We receive 100% of our funding from individuals, trusts, private foundations, local businesses and civic organizations. Some companies will match an employees contribution if it meets their criteria.

      Many of our donors have established continuing awards in memory of a beloved family member; in honor of a respected teacher or coach; or, in support of a specific academic endeavor. We welcome contributions of any amount to the general fund. Staples High School seniors and graduates may apply and all grants are based solely on need. A student must have applied for federal aid in order to be reviewed.

      Hope this answers your questions. Let me know if you need more information.

  4. Ann Sheffer

    Thanks for capturing the history and emotion of the Staples Tuition Grants — I’ve often wished that we could write down the story behind each of the named funds, while there are people who still remember…it’s a very inspiring program!

    • Ann, It’s a thought some of us had last night. As you know we always send the donors a bio of their student(s) they are helping. When applicable we thought we should also send the story of the named award to the student so they better understand why they were chosen for that particular award.

  5. Mike Pettee


    If memory serves, one of your 1971 Staples classmates, Marianne Pettee Churchwell, , was a beneficiary of those grants. Today she is a vice president (HR) for Lear Corp in Detroit, MI