Working on Access for All

New scholarship to help students who work find time for extracurriculars


Nora Spadoni

Students listen attentively at a meeting of Environmental Club, after school on Sept. 3.

Money should be no obstacle to enrichment.

That belief anchors the Beyond the Desk Foundation. Created by Marcia Brown (’15), the foundation provides scholarships for students whose work obligations prevent them from participating in extracurricular activities.

“The Shaker community is incredibly diverse, socioeconomically, racially and otherwise,” founder and co-manager Marcia Brown said. “The high school offers ‘a world of opportunities’ but I think it’s wrong that that world only be offered to the students who can afford to participate.”

“This program is designed to open the playing field for every Shaker kid,” Brown said.

Up to five students will qualify to receive the scholarship of $500 given in increments throughout the semester. To qualify for the program, applicants must be on a free or reduced lunch program and work 15 to 20 hours a week. The fund allows students to take one day a week off from their jobs to focus on an academic club or activity.

According to the Beyond the Desk website, more than one in three students at the high school received free or reduced lunch in 2012.

“A lot of kids come from economically disadvantaged homes,” said Dean of Students Jon Moorehead, a member of the student selection committee for Beyond the Desk. “We want to remove as many barriers as possible.”

“We want to keep school clubs and organizations as diverse as possible in order to reflect our diverse student body,” Moorehead said.

Brown first proposed the stipend in her March 2015 Shakerite column. “Students from lower socioeconomic levels need the income they receive from working. To enable students to participate in any activity, we need to replace that income,” Brown wrote.

After presenting the idea to both the Board of Education and City Council, consulting community members, and raising funds, Brown launched a website, where students can apply for the scholarship.

Despite graduating in 2015, Brown intends to continue her involvement in the foundation. As a freshman at Princeton University, she will take a course in philanthropy and public policy, and plans to take what she learns and “immediately apply it to Beyond the Desk.”

In the meantime, co-manager Mica Jordan, a senior who helped develop the program and served with Brown on the Student Experience Subcommittee of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, will take over administrative duties.

Both Brown and Jordan are excited to see how the project will grow. “As of now, the scholarship supports five SHHS students per semester. I’d like our program to expand so that a larger amount of students are able to receive the scholarship,” Jordan said. Currently, Beyond the Desk is funded solely by donations. The scholarship costs $5,000 yearly.

“I’m excited to see this foundation come to life. Marcia and I have worked really hard developing this, and we can’t wait to see students benefit.”

“Even if it’s not perfect,” said Moorehead, “I think it’s a start. Sometimes you just gotta try.”

“Students who participate in extracurriculars enhance their writing, speaking and interpersonal skills,” Brown said. “They can pursue their passions and learn about themselves, they will take pride in their community and participate more fully in what’s offered and contribute in truly positive and promising ways.”

“This program is a way to create greater diversity in clubs, by opening the doors to more students, and to create greater unity in the student body by fostering further common ground,” Brown said.

Applications for the Beyond the Desk Scholarship can be found here and are due Sept. 7 and should be submitted to Guidance Department Chairwoman Eileen Blattner.

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