It’s Good to Have Friends… of Downtown
Our loyal blog readers may remember that we profiled our senior vice president, Ben Price, last year on our blog, and in that article mentioned a great organization called Friends of Downtown. Next month, Friends of Downtown will host its annual fundraiser to provide scholarships for San Diego City College students. We want to take this opportunity to revisit their great work, including the contributions Ben makes to the organization, and help you learn more about how you, too, can help local college students.
Friends of Downtown was started in 1990 by a group of downtown professionals and was designated as a nonprofit in 2000. The group is now the largest provider of scholarships for San Diego City College students.
With approximately 16,000 students enrolled, San Diego City College is an important thread in the fabric of downtown, especially east downtown. Students come from all walks of life, but the affluence level of the student body trails other San Diego community colleges. San Diego City College administrators estimate that approximately 350 of their students are homeless, with maybe three times that number who are close to being homeless. Over 80 percent of the student body receive some sort of financial aid.
To date, Friends of Downtown has awarded over $400,000 in scholarships to City College students. “If they can get in to San Diego City College, I want to keep them there,” says Ben, commenting on why he’s so committed to Friends of Downtown’s scholarship program. “I believe in people continuing their education to get a job and prop themselves up.”
Friends of Downtown, currently led by Christine Baker, awarded 43 scholarships of $500 each this year. The students must apply and interview to compete for the scholarships.
“When we ask them how they will use the money, some students say they need it for bus fare or books…or even for food,” says Ben, who participates in the majority of the grant interviews. “We don’t restrict how they use the grant, as long as it helps them stay in school.”
Friends of Downtown has forged a strong relationship with San Diego City College, helping out with the school’s efforts to provide affordable interview attire to its students through the college-run boutique, Fantastique, where students can also intern. Friends of Downtown members have held clothing and accessory drives for the boutique. They have also contributed to the school-run food bank, The Pantry.
“San Diego City College is a jewel of east village, not just for the significant renovations recently completed on the campus, but also for the creative and responsive programs they have created to help their students succeed,” says Ben. “It’s easy for our group to want to get behind the college and its students, who we hope will go on to become active members of San Diego’s business and civic community.”
One hundred percent of funds raised at Friends of Downtown’s May 19 breakfast will go to the scholarship program. Both San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and San Diego City College President Dr. Anthony Beebe are expected to speak at the event. More information about the breakfast and the Friends of Downtown scholarship program can be found at http://www.fodsd.org.
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