By Syma Chowdhry
CAMDEN, N.J., (CBS) — Dozens of students in Camden are getting a precious gift: an education.
A unique scholarship opportunity is aimed at helping low-income children get a college degree, only if they hold up their end of the bargain.
“I am a product of Camden schools and I’ve already been accepted to college,” said Marco Lopez, a senior at LEAP Academy Charter School in Camden.
He is heading to Rutgers University next fall – in hopes of becoming a mechanical engineer.
“The hard part for me wasn’t so much about getting accepted,” Lopez explained. “It is about paying for it.”
Luckily for Lopez, he is getting a full scholarship – thanks to a LEAP scholarship.
“Less than 40% of kids in Camden graduate and go to college,” Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, the founder of LEAP, said.
Since 2005, the school has been offering full-rides to Rutgers University to its high school students who maintain a 3.5 GPA.
“The earlier will endorse the endowment to the kids the better it is going to be for them,” Bonilla-Santiago explained.
Starting this year, any child from Kindergarten through 12th grade can apply for a full ride to any of the three Rutgers campuses.
“College for them is the only option, for them in this city, there is nothing else.”
But, students can lose the scholarship for failing to maintain the 3.5 GPA, having four or more unexcused absences a year or behaving badly.
Two hundred [and] seventy students will be promised the scholarship in a ceremony Wednesday.
“This is their ticket, a way out of poverty,” Bonilla-Santiago added.
Students and parents agree.
“I can’t afford college otherwise,” student Destiny Bingham said. “So this is a very big opportunity for me.”
Lopez said, “I’m going to college, I have college acceptances, I have a scholarship.”
“This is a really big relief and big burden off your shoulders to know that your kid can go to a good university and you don’t have to financially worry about it,” Vanessa Jones, a parent, added.
The scholarship is funded by donors and an annual event coming up on December 13th.
For details/tickets on the scholarship gala, go to: http://clc.camden.rutgers.edu/gala.html
For more information on LEAP, go to: http://www.leapacademycharter.org/