- Financial Assistance
Ten minutes before Ma’ayan Epstein, 18, was due to give the speech at her high school graduation she got a call from Michelle Lamphere, Director of JFCS’ Financial Aid Center. “When I answered the phone Michelle said, ‘I have some information.’ I didn’t want bad news right before my speech, but she interrupted to say I had won the scholarship! It made my whole graduation even sweeter.”
The scholarship Ma’ayan is referring to is the Vivienne S. Camp Scholarship, a competitive award given out annually by JFCS’ Financial Aid Center to two Bay Area high school seniors. This year the award went to Ma’ayan and Sam Newsome, 18, both of San Rafael.
“Sam and Ma’ayan were selected for their academic excellence, their deep roots to the Jewish community, and financial need,” says Michelle. “It will be a joy to watch them succeed and go out in the world.”
The Opportunity to Focus on Studies
For both Sam and Ma’ayan the sizable scholarship—$27,612 to each student to be disbursed over four years—means that they can focus on their studies.
“My mom, the family’s sole breadwinner, recently lost her job. When I was accepted into my dream school, UCLA, initially I thought I would not be able to go,” says Ma’ayan who is interested in majoring in Human Biology and Society.
“This scholarship takes away a lot of that stress. It means a lot to me to know that the selection committee and JFCS care about where I’m headed.”
When he found out he won, Sam says it was a huge deal for his family. “It was one of those moments I’ll remember for a long time.”
Since Sam was young both of his parents have struggled with cancer and other health issues. “My mom and I are so close and my dad is my best friend. Their health problems have been hard but I’m a better person because of what we went through.” Thankfully, both parents are now doing better and looking forward to seeing their son begin the next chapter of his life.
This fall Sam, who is also a talented volleyball player, is headed to California State University, Chico. He’s leaning towards a major in Communications with a minor in Special Education.
Gaining an Education to “Pay It Forward”
Michelle says Sam and Ma’ayan’s involvement in their communities is what stood out to the selection committee members, who received applications from students from around the Bay Area.
Starting in fourth grade Sam volunteered as a peer tutor with autistic students at his school. Even after elementary school, he continued on as a volunteer all throughout his middle and high school years. This summer he’s working with kindergarteners with special needs.
Michelle says Sam’s gift of empathy is unusual in someone of his age. “Helping others is something I’d like to do for the rest of my life,” says Sam.
Ma’ayan too has put service at the center of her life. Her experience as a camper and counselor-in-training at Camp Tawonga, a Jewish summer camp in the Sierras inspired her to create a “Young Women Warriors” workshop in her neighborhood for “tween” girls. Once a month she mentored a group of girls to lead a balanced and grounded life. It was this experience that got her thinking of a career in social work or public health.
“I plan to always give back to the Jewish community and the world at large,” says Ma’ayan. “I’m going to use my education and my Jewish values and pay it forward.”
Scholarships and Loans Program Help Offset Expenses for Higher Ed
Each year JFCS’ Financial Aid Center helps over 50 eligible undergraduate and graduate students offset the expenses of higher education through low-interest loans and scholarships. The center also gives out competitive business and professional loans to budding entrepreneurs.
Partial funding for the JFCS scholarship program is provided by generous individual support, foundation grants, and named endowment funds.