by Christine Wolkin
Several years ago, despite being a full-time, working single mother with a bachelor’s degree, 39-year-old Mt. Airy resident Erica Chase found herself struggling to pay for the tuition at Holy Cross Catholic School for her daughter, Antoinette. “I’ve never had a job that could afford to pay me a wage that didn’t keep me floating along the poverty line and barely making ends meet, even with a bachelors degree,” said Chase, who added that she has never received child support from her daughter’s father.
Chase decided to return to school at Drexel University to attain her MBA in order to “secure a more stable future for my daughter and me,” she said. Unfortunately, that meant also reducing her hours available for work and taking lower paying jobs so that she could focus on achieving these goals.
Through word of mouth, Chase was fortunate to learn about the Children’s Scholarship Fund Philadelphia (CSFP), a privately-funded program whose mission is to increase the long-term economic and social success of children from low-income Philadelphia families by providing their children with financial access to quality, safe, K-8th grade, tuition-based schools.
“The scholarship helped me to keep my daughter in the same school she had attended since kindergarten, where she was doing very well,” she said.
Chase’s daughter is in the 7th grade, has now been receiving the scholarship for several years and is excelling in her classes, she says. “She currently is in an advanced placement program that provides children with a path to scholarship with partnering high schools. She has to maintain an 85 percent or higher grade point average and attend Saturday classes and summer classes, and hopefully, all of the hard work will pay off when it comes time to transition into high school.”
As for Chase, in addition to working at Drexel University, she now works at CSFP helping low-income Philadelphia families who were in the same situation she was in to apply for these need-based scholarships for their children. As the deadline for CSFP’s priority scholarship deadline is fast approaching (Nov. 15), Chase is quick to share with families that the earlier you apply, the more chances of winning the scholarship lottery you have.
“The application will take less than five minutes, and once selected, applicants will be asked to provide financial documentation and select a school. It’s important to know that when you apply, you don’t have to make a decision in that moment about where you want to send your child to school. You will have some time to make those decisions, but it’s crucial to get your application in as soon as possible to have the best chances for being selected, because they will be participating in more than one drawing if they enter early,” said Chase.
Once a family is selected, they can receive the scholarship for up to four years. Additionally, they will also be connected with a community of Philadelphia families and have opportunities to participate is many of CSFP’s activities and museum trips and special events throughout the year, such as ice skating, city-wide fairs and award ceremonies.
Since 1999, CSFP has been granting need-based scholarships to children from low-income Philadelphia families, all of which are awarded by random lottery. CSFP currently serves more than 5,000 children enrolled at over 170 private and parochial schools.
“In Philadelphia, parents are required to pay a minimum of $500 for their child’s tuition,” according to London Faust, a spokesperson for CSFP . Nationally, the program requires that parents pay 25 percent of their child’s tuition, “making them fully invested in their children’s education,’’ touts CSFP’s national website.
If you’re interested in applying for the scholarship program for your child, visit csfphiladelphia.org/scholarships/apply