The scholarship I received from the Great Neck Student Aid Fund changed my life.
My mother was a lovely woman—before she started drinking. I will always remember the way she would sit on my bed and read bedtime stories. And she loved to wear great, big hats when we went to the beach. She looked good in these hats—and she knew it.
When I was in high school, my mother’s relationship with vodka got the best of her. She started drinking early in the morning. And, while some drunks are funny or charming, my mother wasn’t one of them. She became angry and mean-spirited. She kicked me out of our home when I was a senior in high school, and I felt nothing but relief.
Paying for college was a grind. Even completing the federal financial aid forms was tough. Thank G-d, the Great Neck Student Aid Fund was there to help.
The organization not only awarded me a scholarship that helped me through my first year, but the volunteers met with me privately and helped me complete the financial aid form. The federal government assumes that every young person has at least one parent willing to sign the form. There are no exceptions made to teenagers in my position. The tough old woman volunteering that day was undeterred.
“What are we going to do?” I asked her.
With a wonderful New York smoker’s voice she told me, “I’m going to forge your mother’s signature. That’s what I’m going to do.” And she added, “You’re going off to college, kid. That’s all there is to it.”
This past Sunday, I shared my experience with a small crowd at the Great Neck Student Aid Fund’s first annual fun walk. I got a little bit emotional when I told my story. Within 10 years of receiving the scholarship, I not only graduated from college and law school, but I became an assistant district attorney—in the City of New York. I spent several years working in Brooklyn’s Special Victim’s Bureau, where I protected women and men who were the victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
The Great Neck Student Aid Fund does incredibly important work—but it’s almost always hidden in the background, because the scholarships are awarded confidentially. All communities have families who struggle financially. And, of course, every neighborhood has families that struggle with substance abuse and domestic violence. Great Neck is no different.
Before the fun walk began, I went to Firefighter’s Park, and I tied a bunch of red, white and blue balloons to the statue of Jonathan Ielpi. Jonathan was a close friend of mine. He had a phenomenal sense of humor, and he was a big fan of the American flag. Next year, I’m looking forward to the second annual Great Neck Student Aid Fund fun walk. I’m hoping that the crowd will be twice as big. I promised to tie twice as many balloons to the Jonathan statue. He would love the attention.
Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to the Great Neck Student Aid Fund at www.gnsaf.com/donate.