By Jemi Goodman
The Great Neck Student Aid Fund (GNSAF) is an organization that was started by a group of caring Great Neck School District parents 85 years ago, in 1931. Its mission is to assist needy students bound for college or vocational schools, unable to afford the expenses of a formal education.
The name Great Neck has always evoked images of The Great Gatsby days, a time when the community was formed and many famous, infamous, generous, educationally minded and generally wealthy people made their home here. Even back then, there was poverty among the populous, but it was a very low percentage. Those were the days.
At the most recent school board meeting, a statement was made that the poverty level in our community stands at about 8 to 10 percent. Yes, that’s right! Right here in our beautiful community, people go to bed hungry (check out the soup kitchen at St. Aloysius Church), seek food and clothing from the food pantry and some are even homeless. Many of their children will be graduating from Great Neck high schools this year. The GNSAF has been instrumental throughout its existence in helping these students fulfill their dreams of going to college, ultimately
helping themselves and their families rise above the poverty level.
“We’ve been around for 85 years,” said Elise Kestenbaum, president of the GNSAF at a recent school board meeting. “There have been many years in which we gave 60 scholarships.” You do the math.
Now the GNSAF needs the help of the community to continue the work it started all those years ago. The economy has changed, tuition has skyrocketed and grant money has withered. Institutions and funding that the GNSAF once depended on for its survival have dried up. The only constant here are the students and their need for help in achieving their goals. Their numbers are growing here in our very upscale community. Our goal is to help these students achieve their goals so that they will never again have to view the virulent face of poverty, especially in a community that doesn’t even know it exists.
Last week, the GNSAF mailed a brochure outlining its mission, explaining the application process and reaching out to you, the residents of the Great Neck School District. Please help the Great Neck Student Aid Fund continue its mission. Especially now, when our nation is in dire need of great minds. We have the great minds here in our community. Help them on their way. Who knows, we may be nurturing the next great scientist, artist, physician, artisan—the sky’s the limit if we can see our way clear to help.
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