The Pittsburgh Section of the National Council of Jewish Women has become the first non-foundation, non-profit community group to contribute to the Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship Fund.
NCJW announced Tuesday it has made a $10,000 contribution to Pittsburgh Promise “as a symbol of the organization’s commitment to furthering academic achievement for young people,” according to its statement.
The gift was consistent with the chapter’s history of supporting the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
NCJW-Pittsburgh President Susan Nitzberg said she and her board hope their gift, which has the effect of helping two high school students afford college, will spur other organizations to contribute. Pittsburgh Promise is largely structured as a matching grant campaign.
“We feel during these difficult times if we, a small nonprofit, could dig deep into our pockets than other nonprofits and corporations could dig deep and help the region,” Nitzberg said.
“The decision by NCJW to support The Pittsburgh Promise is an important indication that social service organizations in our region see the value of advancing the prospects of our young people for the benefit of the entire region,” Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise, said in a prepared statement. “We are grateful to be their continued commitment to strengthening public education programs.”
Nitzberg said the NCJW was impressed by the goals of the Pittsburgh Promise — to reverse population declines in the city and the Pittsburgh Public Schools, as well to increase the number of Pittsburgh students going to college.
They were particularly moved by how previous recipients of the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships have responded to the education opportunity. Nitzberg described how Pittsburgh Promise students at Robert Morris University were forming a group to assist incoming recipients of the scholarships with their transition to college life.
“I’m just so impressed, and my board was, too, with the broad mission Pittsburgh Promise is trying to [accomplish],” she said.
Established in 2007 through the Pittsburgh Foundation, Pittsburgh Promise is a scholarship program that “vows to help all students in Pittsburgh Public Schools plan, prepare, and pay for education beyond high school at an accredited post-secondary institution within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
It was launched with a $100 million commitment from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — $10 million up front to assist city high school graduates and $90 million as a challenge grant. It was structured that way to encourage a community-wide campaign to raise an additional $135 million over the next nine years.
Academically eligible students can receive a Pittsburgh Promise scholarship that pays up to $5,000 each year for up to four years of college. The money may cover expenses such as tuition, mandatory fees, books, dorm, and meal plan.
Funds from The Pittsburgh Promise are to be used as “last dollar” scholarships, meaning that federal and state grants will be used first. Students who already have scholarships to cover the total cost of attendance may be eligible for an award of up to $1,000 through The Pittsburgh Promise.
Also Tuesday, NCJW announced that it is the first community group to join the recently announced Committee of 100, a group of local leaders seeking to raise funds and support from influential business leaders for the Pittsburgh Promise.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com or at 412-687-1005.)