N.Va. Community Foundation Supports GMU Early-Identification Effort

(Sunday, October 22, 2006 1:31 PM EDT)
Unrestricted grant money is hard to come by for many organizations, but George Mason University's Early Identification Program (EIP) has proven itself worthy of such funding.

At the Community Leadership Awards Gala on Oct. 13, the Northern Virginia Community Foundation (NVCF) presented the university's president, Alan Merten, and his wife, Sally, with a $31,000 check for the program.

Piloted in 1987, EIP identifies potential but at-risk students in grades 8 to 12, and helps them complete a college prep high school program, with the hope that they will attend college after graduation.

The program is free for its participants.

“The goal of the program is to prepare students to go to college by strengthening their academics and also their aspirations,” said Hortensia Cadenas, the program's director. “We make sure they understand that they can attend college and be successful.”

At least 700 students from the Arlington, Prince William, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park public school systems have participated in the Early Identification Program, and 96 percent of them have gone on to higher education. The program even inspired four parents to follow their children's footsteps and pursue a college degree. EIP is graduating its 16th class this year.

The grant is the largest the Northern Virginia Community Foundation has ever given, and was comprised of funds from a consortium of donors: the foundation itself, two of the foundation's donors and one of its board members.

“It's a wonderful thing,” said Eileen Ellsworth, president of the foundation. “It's an example of how NVCF can lead in philanthropy. We could introduce others as interested in EIP as we were.”

The foundation has given more than $3 million in grants and scholarships supporting community causes this past year.

“We thought EIP was a wonderful program that really impacts lives and helps students build a community of support and encouragement with each other,” said Ellsworth. “This [grant] was a good way for NVCF to strengthen the community.”

For more information on the Early Identification Program visit the Web site at http://ulife.gmu.edu/eip.

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