In Eagle Rock’s early years, students would graduate in proper circumstance — if not pomp — only to face seemingly impossible financial barriers in their efforts to move on. Having earned their diplomas and eagerly looking forward to grander goals, these confident students often found their promising futures thwarted by monetary constraints that prevented them from financing further education.
What it came down to was students who wanted to go to college — and they could get into college — but they just didn’t have the support, according to Robert Burkhardt, our founder and former Head of School.
By the summer of 1997, Burkhardt and Dick Herb, who was then our director of operations, came up with the beginnings of a plan. Herb found some money in the budget that enabled Burkhardt to bequeath a thousand dollars to one graduate.
But it quickly became obvious that all of our graduates deserved a financial opportunity, so the next trimester, we granted the same award to all graduates. Nice sentiment, but in order to make the fund sustainable, we had to come up with a fund-raising operation.
We began to hire the school out for Eagle Serve once a trimester, and then became involved with the Estes Park Duck Race organization. And volunteers began sending out letters to people, asking for monetary support.
When Judy Gilbert, Eagle Rock’s first director of curriculum passed away, the American Honda Education Corporation donated $50,000 in her honor to seed the Eagle Rock Graduate Higher Education Fund.
And as more money flowed in and the fund grew even more sustainable, we began to raise the award amount. Today, the Graduate Higher Education Fund award stands at $14,000 per student. Moreover, the award applies retroactively, enabling every graduate access to the current amount of funding awarded.
Even today, the fund continues to grow, with the most recent windfall coming from Eagle Rock’s Music & Theater Department, which raised $2,035 through “pay as you like” admission sales for four performances of In The Heights earlier this year. While many Eagle Rock students have used their education award for community college or college tuition, other graduates have used the fund for more creative purposes. Matt Rutherford used his to get his captain’s license that enabled him to sail solo around North and South America. Reynaldo Benally is currently using his award to obtain his English teaching license in Istanbul, Turkey.
Eagle Rock School graduate Yesenia Ayala is using her award to pay for a laptop computer so she can take some extra courses. She tells us that while she receives financial aid to pay standard tuition, it doesn’t help with extra academic and living expenses.
Acknowledging the growing costs of higher education, we hope that the fund will someday grow to $30,000 or higher. But whether that goal is achieved or not, Eagle Rock grads know they have a healthy head start on their advanced education through these fund-raising efforts. And that goes a long way toward maintaining that confidence that’s acquired when they receive that high school diploma.
To learn more about the Graduate Fund at Eagle Rock, please visit the Graduate Higher Education Fund page on our website.