Westchester Day School Offering Novel Approach for Tuition Break — Community Volunteering


Source: The Jewish Week

For decades, Jewish day schools have given out financial aid based on need and merit scholarships based on talents students might have that could benefit the school — in sports, for example, or music. This year, Westchester Day School is pioneering a new type of scholarship, one that benefits the local community.

Called the Community Service Grant, the program gives a family $15,000 (dispersed over two years) for pledging to volunteer in the local community for at least 75 hours each year. The school plans to give out two to three grants the first year, said head of school Rabbi Joshua Lookstein.

The grant came about because of “a donor who wanted to honor the memory of his father in a meaningful way,” said WDS board president Joshua Trump (no relation to President Trump). “The priorities were: do something that would help the school by growing enrollment, do something that was mission-oriented and do something that would impact the community. The idea of the community service grant is that it really checks all of the above,” he said. “It provides an attractive incentive to prospective young families looking to move into the community or considering Westchester Day School, but it also highlights the priorities of WDS. We place a premium on families who are doers in the community.”

When applying for the grant, the families must lay out in detail what kind of volunteering they plan to do. One family member could do the hours or the entire family could participate; there’s even a provision allowing the family to organize a volunteer event and get credit for the hours worked by each person who attends.

Although the application deadline isn’t until Feb. 20, WDS has already received two applications.

In one, a mother offers to set up an anti-bullying/kindness campaign at the school that would include anti-bullying workshops and “buddy benches” where students could go when they were feeling lonely so that other students would know to go over and talk to them.

The second proposes that the entire family — mom, dad, a 4-year-old boy and twin 3-year-old girls — volunteer at a local nursing home doing arts and crafts with the seniors as well as baking challah and assembling Shabbos kits at home for the Jewish residents.

The community service grant appears to be the first of its kind, at least in the U.S. “We don’t know of anyone else who’s done a similar community service [program] and tied it to tuition assistance” said Paul Bernstein, CEO of Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. “We think this is a first, and we’re just delighted that people are trying different ways to really serve families and make it more affordable. So, we encourage this type of experimentation when it happens.”

Read more at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Feb. 13, 2018