Parents learn about GRASP

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lunenburg County High School students, their families and members of the public learned about scholarship opportunities during an interest meeting that included county leaders, representatives from nonprofit organizations and state legislators.

The meeting, held recently at Central High School, included details about nonprofit GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program Inc. (GRASP) and featured two representatives who addressed issues about the organization and the best

ways for high school and college students to access financial assistance the organization and federal financial aid can offer.

GRASP was founded in 1983 by state Sen. Walter Stosch and Dr. Ray Gargiulo, a teacher and adjunct professor who has worked in Richmond Public Schools and Virginia State University.

The program focuses on in-school advising for students, providing assistance in applying for  the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a required application to receive federal financial aid and scholarship programs.

GRASP also awards scholarships. The organization typically awards one $1,000 scholarship to each school it serves annually, according to the organization.

The program is currently in 76 schools throughout Virginia, including Central High School.

Brown’s Store District Supervisor Mike Hankins, who organized the Wednesday meeting with Division Superintendent Charles Berkley to create more awareness of the program, said members of the board of supervisors have looked for ways to cut costs for families.

Hankins spoke to state Sen. Frank Ruff, who represents Lunenburg in the State Senate, about budget difficulties in the county, and Ruff suggested bringing awareness to the GRASP program.

“It’s really a great program,” Hankins said. “And every kid in Lunenburg County ought to be participating in (it). It can save parents a lot of money.”

Retired state Senator and GRASP Cofounder Walter Stosch said navigating financial aid and applying for FAFSA, particularly for high school students and even their families, is not easy.

He said GRASP’s adviser for Central High School, Gail Benjamin, can help students and their families apply for federal financial aid and provide opportunities and counseling for students to look at all options past high school.

“Our goal is to make sure no young person is denied an opportunity to move forward after high school,” Stosch said.

A scholarship GRASP created this year focuses on students who first attend a community college to gain their associate’s degree before transferring to a four-year institution.

The “2+2 Scholarship” awards selected students with a $1,000 for their first year of community college, and students can receive $1,000 for the second year of community college based on successfully completing 30 credit hours with a GPA required by the Guaranteed Admission Agreement of the student’s intended four-year college or university, according to the GRASP website.

Students who participate in the program could qualify for Virginia’s Two-Year College Transfer Grant, which could award up to $6,000 for students transferring to a qualifying college or university for their final two years.

Benjamin, who became an advisor for GRASP for Central High School in 2013, said she will be available to advise students on Tuesdays, starting in September from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and said she is flexible in meeting students’ schedules.

Hankins mentioned emails he received from community members who were unable to attend the meeting, but wanted to learn more about the program. GRASP Chief Executive Bettsy Heggie said GRASP was open to scheduling a follow-up meeting with the community.

Hallie Stallings, a rising senior at Central High School, attended the meeting with her mom and thought the program could be beneficial for her and other students.

“I think it’s a great program,” Stallings said following the meeting. “It helped a lot and will help a lot.”

To learn more about GRASP, visit