Full Scholarship Gift Stuns Third Graders in Arizona

Full Scholarship Gift Stuns Third Graders in Arizona

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

Students need to remain in the Arizona school district to get the gift from the local family foundation.

Erika Valadez is finishing up her first year in Grand Canyon University located in Phoenix, a reality she said she could have never have been conceivable without the assistance of the generosity of a local family.

Back in 2012, the Rosztoczy Foundation – a private family association based in Avondale, Ariz. – guaranteed Valadez along with 83 other third graders a full grant to college. You read that right, a free ride with no payback!

Even though Valadez, 19, might have applied for educational loans, grants and scholarships that would have made advanced education much more accessible. “I think I would have taken a few gap years to try to earn some money,” she said. Now, “I won’t graduate with over $100,000 in debt.”

As a third grader, Valadez couldn’t understand the gravity of the gift, yet once she reached high school and had the option to really zero in on her classes without stressing over money for collage, that’s when she realized “it’s a really big opportunity.”

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“It impacts not only you, but everyone around you,” she said, noting that her family wasn’t in a financially stable place to fund her college studies.

A decade after the Rosztoczy Foundation made its first grant, another school of 63 third graders in Phoenix was stunned with a similar guarantee – a full ride to school, including educational costs and food with lodging all included.

The entire third grade class at Bernard Black Elementary School gathered with their parents and guardians for what they assumed would be a standard assembly recently on a Monday night.

Quintin Boyce, the Roosevelt School District superintendent, made it known that every single one of the students in third grade at school would have their school costs completely covered. From the start, parents were in dismay, but when the shock began to wear off, practically every parent broke down in tears of bliss.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Boyce said of the assembly on April 25. “It was a really precious moment. In my 20 years in education, it was one of the most memorable — if not the most memorable — experience I’ve had.”

The unexpected announcement significantly affected parents, the majority of which said they couldn’t fathom the idea of saving enough money for their children to go to college. Around 90% of the school qualifies for free or reduced lunches, the administrator said. The typical cost of a college degree in the United States is over $35,000 per year, according to the Education Data Initiative, however the expense fluctuates depending on the school, if it’s in or out of state, and public or private.

The cost of advanced education has risen dramatically as the years progressed, with a yearly increase of almost seven percent. Referring to that along with other concerns, parents at Bernard Black Elementary School were thankful for the unexpected gift.

“I got very emotional,” said Evelia Castaneda, whose son, Abisai, is a third-grader. She and her husband were overwhelmed with relief and excitement.

“It will be a big difference,” Asael Castaneda said.

Realizing he now has a full ride to school, Abisai now has a goal set: “I want to become a doctor,” he said.

The Rosztoczy Foundation was established in 2005 by the late Ferenc E. Rosztoczy, a Hungarian-conceived physicist who fabricated a few fruitful organizations in the wake of moving to the United States back in 1957. His aim was to gift scholarship opportunities to Hungarian students to study in America. In 2012, he presented the College Promise program, which attempts to send groups of students who live in financially burdened regions to college.

That year, the establishment offered to send 84 third graders at Michael Anderson School in Avondale to college. Of them, 67 students graduated from the local high school last year, so far, 34 are signed up for college. Students have five years to utilize their eligibility.

“When we felt like we had success as they were graduating last year, we decided we want to do more of this,” said Ferenc Rosztoczy’s son, Tom Rosztoczy, who presently runs the foundation with his mother and brother. “We spent some time trying to see if it had made a difference, and we felt like it had.”

He noted that they want to ultimately award the scholarships to two schools per year, adding that the offer will be extended to another school of third graders next month.