Hannah Cohen serves as a director of the North American Women’s Debating Championships. She is president of a club at her school, McGill University in Montreal, that sponsored a workshop at a local homeless shelter to help women with nutrition and budgeting.
A sophomore who graduated from Council Rock High School North in Newtown, Cohen has a list of extracurricular activities a mile long, in part because she receives an annual scholarship from Jewish Family and Children’s Service and doesn’t have to scramble to figure out how to pay for tuition.
The nonprofit organization’s scholarship fund has helped more than 50 Jewish students from the Philadelphia area pay for college over the last five years, and many more since its founding three decades ago, according to the organization.
The program is designed to help “Jewish kids in our community that have faced some hardships in their lives,” said Joanne Lippert, co-director of JFCS adult and senior services.
The organization has $50,000 available this year to provide students with four-year scholarships based on need for as much as $5,000 annually to those selected. The deadline for new applications is March 14.
Cohen, who attends Chabad of Bucks County when in town, was applying for college in 2011 at a time when her mom had recently lost her job and her family was facing an uncertain financial future.
“It was stressful,” said Cohen, who is studying linguistics and is organizing two conferences in the field at McGill.
Without the scholarship, she said, “I would be working all the time and wouldn’t have time to do half of what I’m doing.”
The scholarships can provide peace of mind not only for the students but also for the parents who are unable to keep up with rising tuition costs.
Karen Mandel, a single mom in Upper Dublin, already had one son at West Chester University when her younger son, Ethan, was applying for college.
When thinking about the prospect of another son’s college tuition, Mandel, who works in catering, said she realized, “I have nothing left to sell. I sold it all to support them.”
Despite having their own financial troubles, the family regularly volunteered at the Jewish Relief Agency and with Golden Slipper Club and Charities. Taking note of his charitable work, strong academic record and financial need, JFCS, Golden Slipper and other organizations awarded scholarships to Ethan, who is now a freshman in the Fox School of Business honors program at Temple University.
His mom said she would advise high school students in similar financial situations to dedicate the time to researching and applying for potential scholarships — a job in itself — rather than worrying about a minimum wage part-time job.
“The scholarships provided the boys with a little breathing room and financial freedom to be what 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds are supposed to be,” said Mandel. “When you are saddled with all that debt, it can get in the way of pursuing your passion.”