What people pay for college tuition is “outrageous here,” said Sag Harbor Lion Dr. Scarlett Magda, a veterinarian and fundraiser for the non-profit she founded, Veterinarians International. Born and raised in Canada, she paid $5,000 a year toward her government-subsidized tuition as an undergrad and graduate student at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Lion Paul Zaykowski, who grew up in Sag Harbor and now runs his own investment firm, put three kids through college and is now paying $80,000 a year for his fourth to go to the University of Southern California.
The recipient of a $1,500 Lions Club scholarship award when he graduated from Pierson High School in 1973, he was talking to Dr. Magda — the first female member of the Lions Club — about how important that stipend was to him and his family back when he went to Bentley University in Massachusetts and his tuition was $5,000.
“She was talking $1,500 over $5,000 — that’s 30 percent,” he said. “That really makes a difference,” he remembered her saying.
In recent years, the Lions Club’s top scholarship prize has been $2,500, a mere one half of one percent for a tuition of $50,000, which is what Mr. Zaykowski paid for his daughter to go to Bates College.
This year’s Lions scholarship winners were Pierson graduates Thomas Brooks, who is attending Boston College and received $2,500; and Isabella DiRussa and Ava Kiss, who each received $1,500.
Lions president Tony Lawless, owner of Cromer’s Market and the liquor store in Noyac, doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to those amounts. “I think those scholarships are a joke,” he said this week. “I told Paul his $1,500 was 45 years ago. Today it kind of makes us look stupid. We’re not doing anything,” he said.
It’s time to bring the scholarship program, which dates back at least half a century, into the modern age, Mr. Lawless, Mr. Zaykowski and Ms. Magda have decided.
Starting with pledges of $25,000 each over five years from two anonymous Lions, and a subsequent pledge of support from Lion Ted Conklin of The American Hotel, the Sag Harbor Lions Club this fall is launching a fundraising drive with the goal of giving $40,000 a year toward college tuition to three deserving Pierson seniors and another $10,000 a year for eighth graders whose parents can’t afford the costs on the annual class trip.
As a public kickoff for the fund drive, Mr. Conklin will host a reception at the American Hotel this Saturday, December 8 at 4 p.m. for anyone interested in making a donation to the scholarship drive. Mr. Zaykowski, who chairs the fundraising committee with Dr. Magda, asked those interested in attending to RSVP by visiting the Sag Harbor Lions Club scholarship fund reception page at eventbrite.com. Wine, beer, Prosecco and a variety of other refreshments will be served.
Remembering that his parents “saved as much as they could so that I would be the first member of my family to attend college,” Mr. Zaykowski said the scholarship he received “made such a difference to me and my family. But times have changed. Education costs are far greater. Now, I look at our students and the challenges they face in today’s world, and realize we all need to help make a difference, and what better way than to empower local youth?”
“The Sag Harbor Lions Club and The American Hotel recognize that higher education can become a reality with a little extra help from our generous community,” commented Mr. Conklin. “It’s an honor to be able to recognize student success. Let’s all get on board!”
“This year, we recognized it was time to make a real change. We want the scholarship to make a significant difference to a student,” said Dr. Magda. “At the same time, we thought it would be a terrific way to galvanize the community around this important need.”
Criteria for scholarship winners include academic excellence, teacher and community recommendations, a written essay, extracurricular activities, demonstrated financial need and a record of outstanding public service. Winners are announced in June and celebrated at a dinner at The American Hotel in July.
Calling their new initiative to bolster their student awards by almost a factor of 10 the “WE SERVE Scholarship Drive,” the Lions are now accepting contributions. No amount is too small, Mr. Lawless said, and all donations are fully tax deductible.
Checks should be mailed to Sag Harbor Lions Club, PO Box 158, Sag Harbor, NY 11963. Donations also can be made online at http://www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/sag_harbor/.
For more information on how to help, write the club at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to the We Serve Scholarship Drive, the Sag Harbor Lions Club conducts a variety of projects and events, including Christmas tree sales at the foot of Long Wharf; the St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner; and the Easter Egg Hunt, all benefiting local community initiatives. TheSag Harbor Lions Club meets monthly at The American Hotel.