BALTIMORE — Liisa Franzen spoke in awe of how quickly St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Baltimore City Scholarship program has grown at the school.
In August of 2011, the France-Merrick Foundation approved a challenge grant in the amount of $100,000, which was contingent upon the college raising $400,000 for need- based scholarships for students from Baltimore City.
“It’s been a wonderfully successful effort. In 15 months, we were able to complete our goal,” said Franzen, the director of development and campaigns. “The challenge grant was a call to action, a call to transform the lives of academically talented students who were not able to pay the full cost of college tuition. The Baltimore City Scholarship Initiative was developed to help answer that need.”
At St. Mary’s, there are no class distinctions for education, the school simply seeks to be an engine of class mobility, said Joseph Urgo, St. Mary’s College former president, who left the school in June.
“We seek to help to end the cycle of educational deprivation that afflicts too many American families. This (the scholarship initiative) is to help increase the likelihood that Baltimore City students who possess the will and the capacity to meet the academic rigor of St. Mary’s liberal arts education, but who may lack the financial resources to afford a college education,” Urgo said.
In 1992, St. Mary’s College of Maryland earned the designation of being a Maryland state honors college. With more than 2,000 students, St. Mary’s also earned the ranked of one of the best public liberal arts schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
While the school is hoping to continue to grow its ties to the Baltimore School of the Arts by offering significant scholarships for city students interested in pursuing music and the arts at St. Mary’s, the college hasn’t forgotten about those who may choose other careers, Franzen said.
Dante Chestnut, a Baltimore native and St. Mary’s College of Maryland student, became the first to benefit from the initiative. Chestnut received a $5,000 scholarship last year from the Beltway Companies Endowed Scholarship Fund, which is part of the St. Mary’s College’s Baltimore Scholarship Initiative.
“Our scholarship is philanthropic, but it is also very much tied into helping our business grow,” Jack C. Saum, Beltway Companies dealer principal, said in a statement. “We hope that this scholarship will attract new talent for an industry that is fundamental to our daily lives.”
The fact that Beltway joined in the initiative shows the importance of the program, Franzen said. “Trucking isn’t the first thing students’ think of when they consider their options,” she said. “Getting students interested in that field is quite an accomplishment and shows forward thinking.”
School officials say that they were thrilled about the participation of Beltway Companies and equally excited about the interest.
“We are incredibly proud to have had Dante as the first recipient of this scholarship,” said Maureen Silva, St. Mary’s College vice president for advancement.
In only two years, the Beltway Companies Endowed Scholarship Fund has received more than $80,000 in contributions.
Third year St. Mary’s College students, majoring in business and/or economics with financial need, are eligible to apply for the two-year, $5,000 minimum gap scholarship.
Preference is given to students from Baltimore City public schools and for family members of those who work in the commercial trucking and transportation industry.
Scholarship recipients are also eligible for a paid internship for two summers at Beltway Companies’ dealerships in Maryland. The scholarship is renewable for two, one-year terms for students who remain in good academic standing.
“During my internship I learned so much about commercial transportation; it was the best experience I have ever had,” Chestnut said. “Thanks to the support of the Beltway team, my knowledge of the industry will continue to grow.”
The scholarship encourages investment in Baltimore’s youth who are interested in St. Mary’s College and provides a way to give back to the city, Silva said.