PROVIDENCE – An all-volunteer board – consisting of Hope High School alumni from different classes – runs Hope High School Dollars for Scholars, a non-profit organization committed to helping inner city students pursue and complete their post-high school education. To that end, this local chapter of Scholarship America (the nation’s largest provider of private scholarships) provides scholarships to Hope graduates.
At an honors ceremony last spring, Louis Mendelsohn (class of 1965) presented the first Louis B. Mendelsohn Entrepreneur Award of $10,000 to graduating senior Ariel Matos (see sidebar, below.
The Jewish Voice interviewed Jane Rosenbloom Bermont (‘65), Hope High Dollars for Scholars board president, by phone and email. Excerpts of the interviews follow:
Q. What was the genesis for Hope High Dollars for Scholars? How did you get involved?
A. I had learned from my daughter Becky, vice president of media at Rhode Island School of Design, that there was an exciting and rewarding multi-year RISD/Hope collaboration, headed by Paul Sproll, RISD’s director of arts education. [After] Paul and I met, our initial idea was to raise funds to improve the arts library at Hope.
One conversation led to another and I founded Hope High Dollars for Scholars in 2011 after bringing together about 10 interested alumni … with Scholarship America (SA). SA [provides] non-profit status and a wealth of resources, from a website template to professional guidance in fundraising and scholarship administration. [Our] Chapter affiliation offers a gateway to nationwide scholarship information and opportunities.
Q. Why did you decide to get involved? Did you grow up with the principles of tikkun olam and tzedakah?
A: As a Jewish child of the ‘60s, the value of social justice was deeply ingrained. I lived in two different communities – the upper-middle class Jewish community of Temple Beth-El and Ledgemont Country Club and the economically and demographically diverse Hope High School. Both communities clearly impacted my life, my career and my purpose. It was also the civil rights era; this President John F. Kennedy quote stayed with me: “If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot … enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place?”
And as a Jew, growing up after the Holocaust, I was compelled to pay attention.
Q. Dollars for Scholars is 2-years-old. Tell us about your accomplishments – members, funds raised, scholarships awarded.
A. We are diverse professionally … but, so far pretty homogenous by age, race and religion (nearly all board members are Jews in their early to mid-60s). [So far] we have awarded $22,000 in scholarships. In 2012 and 2013 [each], we awarded six $1,000 scholarships. In 2013 … we awarded the first annual Louis B. Mendelsohn Entrepreneur Award, $2,500 per year for four years. We have raised more ... and have a decent reserve [as] a foundation for scholarships next year.
[We] have stayed in touch with our award recipients and … Mendelsohn offered to become an active mentor. We will encourage board members and interested donors to provide that personal support and encouragement. We have ambitious plans. The close relationship we have forged with the school … has provided volunteers and financial support [for] the school’s golf tournament and “An Evening for Hope.” Lewis Wintman and [board member] Tom Aquino have been instrumental in securing sponsorships for this event.
Q. What other plans do you have for the upcoming school year?
A. We hope to expand our cadre of volunteers [to] reach a greater network of alumni and community supporters. Our multi-year goal is to increase donations by 50 percent …to offer more multi-year scholarships. Our most strategic effort will be to announce a structured program for leadership gifts, initiated by Mendelsohn’s legacy gift. Next May, [we] will celebrate the accomplishments of notable Hope High alumni.
Our goal for the past two years was to develop an organizational infrastructure that will endure through the years, connecting alumni and the Providence community with investing in the educational and career success of Hope graduates. Success is defined, for me, by [not only] accomplishing our scholarship mission, but also by reconnecting with Hope, old and new friends and Providence.
Q. Anything else you’d like readers to know?
A. We welcome more people on our journey. We are interested in reconnecting with members of the Jewish community who attended or care about Hope. We need volunteers, donors and leadership gifts to help build the community of support for students. They are Providence’s future.
For more information, contact Jane Rosenbloom Bermont (firstname.lastname@example.org or hopehigh.dollarsforscholars.org).
Arthur C. Norman (email@example.com) is a contributing writer with The Jewish Voice.