Scholarship program gives disadvantaged NJ kids chance at college
PRINCETON — When Robert Carr graduated high school, he was given a scholarship to college, which meant so much to him that he made it a point to eventually give back to the program that had honored him with that award.
That idea grew over the years, and in 2003 Carr founded Give Something Back, also known as Give Back, a public charity which partners with 28 universities in seven states including New Jersey. The charity helps put students considered to be disadvantaged — homeless, from foster homes, or with incarcerated parents — through high school, making use of mentoring and a college prep curriculum. If those students maintain a B average, they are then given a full-ride scholarship to one of the partner universities.
Carr said that in focusing on disadvantaged children, his group's efforts amplify that among the many victims of crime are children whose parents suddenly become unable to raise them.
"We've gotten to know the criminal justice system in South Jersey better than we'd like to, but what we're wanting to do is help the children of the people who are incarcerated," he said.
When the program started, the scholarships were only partial, and only offered to the top 10 percent of students in any particular high school. But now, Give Something Back prepays 1,500 scholarships with a bulk amount of seats at each college at a cost of about $1 million per school, and wants to expand into more states.
In New Jersey, where the charity is most prominent, there are seven participating colleges: Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan College at Gloucester County, Rowan University, Saint Peter's University, The College of New Jersey, and William Paterson University.
The Garden State is also home to the high school whose students have benefited more than anywhere else in the country from the Give Back scholarships, and that's Bridgeton High School.
"We think we've changed the goals of a lot of kids going to that school," Carr said. "They know it's possible to go to college, and there are leaders there in the school that are on our scholarship program."
Carr said Give Something Back is in constant need of volunteers for two purposes. The first is mentors for the high school students in all different parts of the state. The second is anyone willing to work with Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Jersey, or CASA, to guide children through the court system to a safe home environment.
Information about both volunteer opportunities is available at giveback.ngo.