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Vice President Calls for Cost Transparency in The Baltimore Sun

Vice President Calls for Cost Transparency in The Baltimore Sun

Posted: 01.13.15

Baltimore Sun Op-Ed by Michele Waxman Johnson
Central Scholarship’s Vice President, Michele Johnson, penned an op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun pushing for cost transparency in higher education.  She calls for legislation mandating updated and easy-to-use cost calculators for all schools.  Michele Johnson writes, “We were delighted to learn that a federal bi-partisan bill proposing a Net Price Calculator Improvement Act of 2014 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Maryland U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and in the Senate by Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. The intent of this bill was to simplify net price calculators and require current and consistent data in a user friendly format in the appropriate location on the school website with no broken links. Pretty much a “no-brainer.” While the House of Representatives bill passed as part of the larger Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, the Senate bill failed and must be reintroduced in 2015.

With the 114th Congress now in session, we hope that Senator Franken will reintroduce, and the Senate will pass, this bi-partisan bill. However, should this federal legislation not become a reality any time soon, we urge the Maryland General Assembly and incoming Gov. Larry Hogan to again take the lead in the interest of transparency for Maryland students and families and support such a bill here in Maryland. As Maryland led in 2014 with the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet statewide legislation, let’s see Maryland lead again, strengthening the net price calculator requirements.”

The entire op-ed can be read here:

Mariel, Patient Advocate

Posted: 12.31.14

Central Scholarship recipients: Christina Dorsey (left), Mariel Otter (center), and Sallyn Ratemo (right)
Mariel Otter is passionate about improving psychiatric care for pediatric patients. As a volunteer in the Pediatric Psychiatric Unit at University of Maryland Medical Center, Mariel has seen how disruptive it is for children to shift in and out of inpatient services.  She is currently working on an evidence-based practice research project examining the effect of outpatient service accessibility after discharge in reducing recurrent inpatient psychiatric admissions. Mariel is also waiting to see if she received a CNA position she applied for at the UMD Medical Center. A single parent and driven student, Mariel has set her sights on helping to heal disadvantaged peoples, families, and communities.  Mariel is pictured in the middle along with fellow Central Scholarship recipients, Christina Dorsey (left) and Sallyn Ratemo (right).

Application Opens Jan 1st

Posted: 12.22.14

female graduate holding a diploma

It’s that time of year, again.  The 2015 application for degree-seeking students opens on January 1, 2015.  Applicants are considered for more than 40 scholarship programs via submission of the 2015 General Application for Degree Seekers.  Scholarships range from $1,000 to $10,000 for graduating high school seniors, undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

Applicants may complete an optional section of the 2015 General Application for Degree Seekers to apply for an interest-free loan.  Benefits of this program include:  NO interest, NO fees, NO credit score cut offs, and a 10-year repayment plan (payments start small and increase in increments each year).  The average loan offer is $4,000 and co-signers are required without exception for all applicants. This is a competitive program and funding is not guaranteed to all applicants. Applicants for the Interest-Free Loan Program must attend school full time.

General Eligibility Criteria

• Maryland resident (or live within 200 miles of Baltimore City)
• US Citizen/Permanent Resident
• Enrolled in or planning to attend an accredited college/university
o Graduating high school senior
o Undergraduate freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior
o 1st year, 2nd year, or 3rd year graduate student
o Professional student (J.D., D.D.S, etc.)
• Family income below $90,000
• 2.8 GPA or higher to be competitive

Courtney, 90th Anniversary Performer

Posted: 09.29.14

Central Scholarship recipient Courtney Wersick
Since the age of ten, the thing that has made Courtney Wersick happiest is performing. From the moment she stepped onto a little stage in the gymnasium of her elementary school as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, she knew she would not be happy in any other career. “I want to spend every day, using music to shed light on the lives of others,” writes Courtney. “I believe music is a universal language – crossing all barriers of culture, class, and race.” Courtney hopes to change the reputation of classical music for the younger generation. She wants to introduce this genre of music to those who may have written it off and showcase its beauty. Courtney is a vocal performance student at Towson University. She sees herself eventually performing around the world sharing music and her voice with others. Courtney was thrilled to receive The Richard Louis Caplan Endowed Scholarship for Music in 2014.  

Now YOU can watch Courtney perform at Central Scholarship’s Got Talent, our 90th anniversary celebration on November 8th.  Buy tickets today and come out for an evening of dinner and performances by our talented performing arts scholarship recipients at the Brown Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).  We look forward to watching Courtney perform on stage at MICA next month and we hope you will join us.

Legg Mason Scholarship Fund for Vocational Students Recipient Tavon Daye

Featured Scholar of the Month

Posted: 08.28.14

Congratulations to Tavon Daye, our August Scholar of the Month.  Tavon completed training at CCBC and received his computer repair certification.  He is 23 years old and was born and raised in Baltimore City.  He hopes to set a good example for his two younger sisters by earning certification and skills education to help him begin his career.  In his own words, he writes, “My professional goal is to get all of the education and training that I can get so that I can prepare for an excellent career to support my family, instead of struggling with a nine to five at McDonalds.”

Unfortunately, Pell grants and financial aid are not applicable to Tavon’s training program.  He is from a low-income single-parent home that does not have the financial resources to support Tavon’s educational pursuits so he turned to Central Scholarship.  After receiving The Legg Mason Scholarship Fund for Vocational Students, Tavon thanked us “from the bottom of my heart.”  Central Scholarship’s vocational training scholarship application is open year round and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.  To apply, click here and scroll down to Career & Technology Students.

CS awards over $1 mil to 2014 scholars

Posted: 08.12.14

Central Scholarship recipients at the 2014 Student Awards Ceremony
Congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients!  We celebrated our new scholars with a packed house reception at the Vollmer Visitor Center inside of the Cylburn Arboretum.  Click here to see a list of all 2014 scholarship recipients.

Our student speaker this year, Shaquil Timmons, shared his story of growing up around friends and adults who did not expect him to be successful because of his background.  Nonetheless, he graduated from Woodlawn High School, and then Stevenson University this past spring and launched an entertainment company.  We were also thrilled that Senator Barbara Mikulski delivered a letter to be read at the awards ceremony congratulating Central Scholarship students.  She writes, “Congratulations to all of this evening’s scholarship winners.  You have prevailed over many other candidates for this award and have worked long and hard to earn this coveted distinction.  What a stunning affirmation to your commitment to academic excellence and motivation to succeed.  Enjoy your place in the spotlight.  I know your family and friends are very proud of you and so am I.”

We also heard keynote Danielle DiFerdinando speak about heading a successful handbag company at the young age of twenty seven.  Danielle spoke of her rise from Ellicott City, Maryland to New York City where she is currently running Danielle Nicole, a company that has received national attention from celebrities like Rachel Zoe and Oprah.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, we surprised Brett Libowitz with the grand prize College Cash scholarship sponsored by Howard County General Hospital.  Brett wrote an exemplary essay about what he learned from our College Cash seminar in January.

We are thrilled to award scholarships to students in our 90th year of service to the community.  We thank our students for being hardworking achievers and we thank our loyal donors for their continued generous support.

Our Second 2014 College Cash Winner Is…

Posted: 06.20.14

College Cash Scholarship recipient Jyna Maeng
Jyna Maeng!  Jyna attended our Howard County College Cash session in the winter.  College Cash is a free educational program that Central Scholarship offers to students all over Maryland.  We are currently planning a fall session in October all about Student Loan Repayment.  Stay tuned and check this page for details.  Jyna is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studies Computer Science.  Congratulations, Jyna!  Read her winning essay below:

“Welcome to College Cash 101, we are so excited that you have decided to join us today. I have a question for you all, how many of you are undergraduates?” Do I raise my hand? I do not know. The seminar moved on, but I did not. My hand laid limp on my thigh, and I wondered when I should have raised it.

I have come to struggle with these types of questions of what category I fall under. You see, I am a post-baccalaureate student, in other words, a second bachelor’s student. Seven months ago, I was on my merry way down the only path I ever knew, accepted and ready to enter a Communications Master’s program at Georgetown University, when I spotted a robot. This robot’s name was Gilbert and Gilbert was visiting my city with an annual Science Conference open to the public. There, I met people with job titles I have never heard of before, telling me how they programmed Gilbert to find his way out of a maze, which was absolutely remarkable! You see, humans can walk through a maze and when they run into a dead end, they intuitively know to turn around and try a different direction, and not return to the dead end. Robots (and computers) don’t intuitively know anything, so the amazing thing about Gilbert was it could take in new information like finding a dead end, and learn not to go there again, without someone manually moving it.

Gilbert was not born with a deductive mind, it was made for him. These people were playing God, creating life (robotic life), giving inanimate objects the ability to learn from their environment and adapt, like living things. It was eye opening and eventually; life changing. I asked what field they were working in, they replied, ‘Computer Science.’ When I was a new college student I never even heard, let alone, considered Computer Science as something I could have pursued. I had only taken one math course in my entire college career. I believed that I was not a “math person” and that it would have been too hard for me to pursue anything related to it, but truthfully, I was scared. Scared that I might fail and I was not that intelligent. So, I chose a safe major, where I was guaranteed to graduate.

Then, I found myself face to screen with Gilbert and a realization just echoed in my ribs; this is where I should be. I knew I had to get a degree in Computer Science, but everyone I happened to ask about the major either said it was ‘extremely difficult’ or actually dropped out of the major and the fear clawed its way in again. I began to wonder, ‘What if I just was not one of those naturally gifted “computer people”?’ So, what? If I am turn out to be untalented, can I not learn? Can I still not pursue it through hard work rather than through an inherit gift? At the core, I wanted to learn Computer Science and my desire puffed itself up against the looming fear.

After weeks of deliberation, I decided to forgo my Master’s program and become a post-baccalaureate student. Some of my colleagues questioned why I would make such a drastic change. They thought that becoming an undergraduate was a step backward and I would have to pay for college on my own this time.

I understand the rarity of a second bachelor student with such a drastic change in career choice, but I chose this uphill battle because I asked, ‘why bother chasing a dream that isn’t yours?’ I wanted to run after my own. And so, I sprinted. Having little math background, I taught myself Pre-calculus to test out of the college class and pushed through Calculus I and II in half a year while teaching myself Java (programming language) to get ahead of my classes and career. And while I was running, gasping for air, I realized how far I could go if I willed my legs to just keep stepping.

And when I stepped into the College Cash 101 seminar, I thought the most valuable knowledge it would give me would be a list of available scholarships in my county, but it was not knowledge at all that affected me the most, it was advice. When Angela and Jen, went over scholarship essay tips, they said to be human in our essays. Be human and advocate for yourself. I have been trying to hide that I am a second bachelor’s student in every essay, every conversation, because I felt it would somehow hurt my chances of being chosen for scholarships and grants, but now I feel I can write essays truer to my situation and dreams rather than what I think I have to become for some of these scholarship essays. I will learn how to better advocate for myself, and use my unique perspective in my essays to better my chances at future scholarships.

I will also look for scholarships particular to students pursuing a second bachelor’s or something geared towards my major. As Jen and Angela said, we should be more specific and local in our scholarship searches to increase our chances of being selected.

Jen told us that when writing an essay, you should tell a story, rather than list your accomplishments. This is my story, and this seminar helped me begin to write my future chapters the right way.

Announcing the First College Cash Scholarship Winner

Posted: 05.19.14

College Cash Scholarship recipient Glen Smith

Congratulations, Glen Smith!  Glen is our featured scholar of the month and a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University studying Computer Science.  He is the first 2014 College Cash scholarship winner.  Glen attended our College Cash seminar back in January and wrote an essay about his experience.  We asked attendees to write about what they learned in the seminar and what could be improved upon in future College Cash sessions.  Here is Glen’s winning essay:

The “hunt” for college aid becomes harder and ever more frustrating as one rises in grade level, particularly a student already attending a college or university as an undergraduate. However, with a bit of help and guidance, the road to “college cash” can become much clearer. That said, I can rightfully say that the College CASH 101 event has successfully been a pioneering force for me regarding my search for college funds.

How, might one ask, did this event steer me in the right direction? I can only thank the organizers and presenters that provided a plethora of information regarding the college aid-finding process(and hardships). One particular bit of advice that I received was actually a preventive strategy, a way of securing my future even before I begin studying any major. The topic was of student loans. Both presenters began by sharing their stories of beginning college, but one had a rather interesting one. She explained that she followed her heart rather than her head (as she did not have anyone to give her advice on the subject) and took out many student loans to accommodate her educational needs. This caused her to end school in debt which is why she shared the story. What I was able to get out of this aside was the ability to make informed choices. Although I am already in a university, I can still apply this message when choosing things such as room and board plans. This idea greatly increases my chances of leaving school less in-debt than I would be otherwise. Related to this topic was the idea of finding the right loans, if I were to need any. I learned and understood the importance and difference of the sub/unsubsidized loans as well as the Perkins and Parent Plus loans. This will also allow me to make an informed choice when borrowing money, and remind me to watch out for scams and fraud.

But one more important idea that was addressed was how to find college aid and where to look for it. An example was given of a student who applied for multiple scholarships to increase his chances of receiving one, however, he applied for the WRONG ones. I did this my senior year as well. I applied for many scholarships, but only received a couple because I created many mediocre applications for scholarships that did not apply very much to me, instead of creating strong applications for more realistic ones. I now know that the correct strategy would be to find scholarships that pertain more to me, especially ones that really narrow down the applicant field (the more general the scholarship eligibility requirements, the less of a chance I will be selected). I will also look for smaller scholarships as well, because those are the ones that many overlook as being “worthless” but they really do add up in the end.

The only topic I would like to be included (or more expounded upon) is college aid for students already attending college/university. It really does get harder to find funds as you rise up, so just more information or advice for those students would be greatly appreciated.

April’s Scholar of the Month

Posted: 04.30.14

Stanley L. and Dorothy Lobe Cahn Scholarship recipient Olumuyiwa Onibatedo holds his young sister

Olumuyiwa Onibatedo received the Stanley L. and Dorothy Lobe Cahn Scholarship last year.  He is a junior studying biology at Towson University.  Born in Nigeria, his decision to pursue a medical career resulted from his experiences as a child.  He recalls a deep curiosity when he visited the doctor in Nigeria and would follow the professionals around asking why and how they diagnosed their patients.  Today, he is a straight-A student despite financial difficulties.  He helps support his family in a single-mother household.  His father left abruptly several years ago so Olumuyiwa took a financial role in the family.  Olumuyiwa works and supports his younger siblings including his two-year old sister (pictured).  He writes, “I was brought up to see every struggle as a blessing in disguise, to know that everything happens for a reason, and to use my struggles as motivation for being the best I could be.”

Sha-Keara, Featured Scholar

Posted: 03.30.14

Central Scholarship recipient Sha-Keara Pinkney

This month’s featured scholar is Sha-Keara Pinkney, a junior at Hollins University in Virginia.   She remembers being in kindergarten and a teacher asked her who she wanted to be when she grew up.  “Lawyer,” was her response and she continues to strive toward that goal to this day.  Originally from Baltimore City, She-Keara remembers being her family’s helping hand in their single mother household.  She writes that her goal was to become “a lawyer with the characteristics of a social worker.”  Since then, she has worked tirelessly and pursued a bachelor’s degree in sociology.  In high school, Sha-Keara was lucky to attend Cristo Rey Jesuit High School where the work study program set her up for success.  She worked at a Baltimore City law firm for two years.  Sha-Keara continued her law education once she went to college by interning with a judge at the District Court of Maryland.

In 2013, Sha-Keara was awarded with a scholarship that was funded by the Mayor of Baltimore City, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  Due to the donation of the mayor’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards skybox in the summer of 2013, Central Scholarship raised enough money to help a Baltimore City student afford college.  To learn more about our work, please visit our testimonial page or read our reviews on