Fund would help homeless students continue to college

Maslow Project hopes to create a $10,000 fund to help homeless students continue their educations beyond high school.

The Medford-based nonprofit organization provides services to homeless youths and their families in Jackson County. The organization received an offer of a $5,000 challenge grant, provided it can raise $5,000 for the Maslow Graduate Fund by Nov. 1, said Karen Phillips, development director. The donor has asked to remain anonymous.

"A private donor will match that amount, essentially doubling the fund and helping lots of homeless youth move out of poverty and toward a life of financial stability," she said.

The Maslow Graduate Fund was created to honor the memory of Judy Baierl DeMaio, who taught inner city middle school students for 32 years. The fund will be available to Maslow's clients who have graduated from high school or earned their GEDs, and wish to pursue further education, said Mary Farrel, Maslow's director.

The goal is to remove some of the financial barriers, generally not covered by scholarships, that can stand in the way of the students achieving their goals. The money can be applied to various needs, including: SAT test fees, college application fees, bus fares, college textbooks, laptop computers and course tuition, she said.

"A lot of kids find the idea of continuing on to college to be overwhelming," Ferrell said.

Ferrell said Maslow has up to a dozen clients each year who, against odds that often include a complete lack of parental support, attempt to attend college. Ferrell said one Maslow client recently managed to navigate his way through four years of high school while homeless. He stayed engaged in his classes, maintaining a high GPA that landed him on the honor roll. Upon graduation, he earned a full scholarship to Southern Oregon University, she said.

"It is a huge success," Ferrell said. "The student is excited."

His scholarship covers his tuition, and even room and board, she said. But many other expenses associated with college are not covered. From books to bus passes to laptops to pens and paper, these expenses often become a barrier to young adults looking to continue their transition out of poverty and toward a life of financial stability, she said.

"These are expenses most students take for granted," Ferrell said.

The organization does what it can. But it has never before had a dedicated funding stream for this effort. The newly established Maslow Graduate Fund may just help to remove a few more of those barriers, she said.

"The goal is to remove any remaining barriers," Ferrell said. "The money can be used at our sole discretion as long as it supports their education. (The donor's) goal is that kids won't feel like they have to take time out after they graduate high school before they can attend college."

To make a donation to the Maslow Graduate Fund, or to learn more about Maslow Project, call 541-608-6868, or visit www.maslowproject.com.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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