Student/Partner Alliance (S/PA) celebrated its 20th Anniversary last Thursday night at Contemporary Art and Editions on Essex Street in Millburn. Thanks to the support of the Millburn branches of Investors Bank, PNC Bank, and PNC Wealth Management, loyal supporters of S/PA were able to enjoy fine art in the gallery, delicious food provided by the Food Service Training Academy of the Community FoodBank in Hillside and a fine selection of international wines from The Wine Library.
The highlight of the event was the speeches of five S/PA students who spoke about their experience in the program and the opportunities that they now have thanks to the S/PA program.
Will Robinson, a Senior at Marist High School, started with some humor, then admitted that without the support from Student/Partner Alliance and his S/PA partner, Short Hills resident Julie Nortillo, he does not know if he would still be in school now, much less getting ready to go to the college of his dreams, Florida Institute of Technology.
Manuela Yeboah, a senior at Christ the King Prep in Newark, spoke of the journey her family has had from Ghana to the US, and the difficulties of starting from scratch in a new country. Manuela has been accepted by seven colleges so far and is waiting to hear from the last four and about their financial aid packages. Manuela’s S/PA partner is Tom Cash, a Short Hills resident and Co-Founder of Student/Partner Alliance. To improve the life opportunities of motivated, but financially challenged students like Manuela with an academic scholarship and mentoring, is at the very core of S/PA’s mission.
Board President Emmett Daly saluted the dedication of co-founders Tom Cash and Warner Canto for their hard work and success over the past 20 years in assisting over 1,550 students graduate from high school and attend a college that that will give them the life they aspire to. “Studies have estimated that the cost to society of a high school drop-out is as much as $300,000 over that person's lifetime.....SPA's scholarship program has prevented many, many hundreds of kids from dropping out of high school, but assuming the number is a conservative 200, then 200 X $300,000 = $60 million. The idea that this little charity has contributed well over $60 million of value to society, is profound!” stated Mr. Daly.