Strive to Excel students will be placed in other mentoring programs

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comDecember 19, 2011 

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Students currently participating in Strive to Excel, a nonprofit mentoring group in Hilton Head Island High School that is closing, will be placed in other programs or connected with other opportunities to help them prepare for college, the school's principal said Monday.

Amanda O'Nan said no firm plans have yet been made, in part because the Beaufort County School District's winter break began Monday.

It wasn't clear Monday how many students participate in Strive. O'Nan estimated that about 14 seniors were currently in the program.

Strive's board of directors announced Saturday it would cease operations Dec. 31.

Results of a district survey of Strive students in September indicated that many of them found help with the college application process the most useful, O'Nan said. To that end, she said she expected to connect Strive students with some programs already being offered by the school, such as SAT prep sessions.

"Obviously, there's some positives to Strive that will be missed, and we'll try to fill those gaps," O'Nan said.

A Hilton Head High junior said Monday that Strive had helped her, but its decision to close didn't mean she'd give up her college goals.

"I'm still going to strive for what I need to do," said Keyuntay Heyward, who has participated in the program since seventh grade. "I mean, it's kind of sad Strive is over, but I'm not going to give up on college just because there's no more Strive."

In a press release, the nonprofit group cited "uncertain conditions of the local economy" as one reason behind its decision to fold.

The announcement came two days after Strive submitted a report on its program and finances to the district. The report was required as part of an agreement between Strive and the school district in order for Strive to continue its program in the schools.

Strive sent federal tax forms to the district in order to meet the financial criteria of the report. Sean Alford, the district's instructional services chief, said last week that the report was satisfactory.

Alford said that was the first time he had looked at Strive's tax forms.

"I think the 990 really reflected the fact that they had some trouble with fundraising," Alford said Monday.

He said the district had not discussed Strive's finances with its board.

Strive board secretary Tom Gardo has said that Strive had raised more than $96,000 in September and November from several donors.

"We've talked to quite a few people," Gardo said in late November. "No one we've approached to raise money has told us no so far."

Attempts Monday to reach Gardo for comment were unsuccessful.

Gardo said Saturday he did not know how much money the organization had on hand, but that Strive's accounts would be reconciled.

At least one fund used for participant scholarships has been empty since the end of the last school year, according to the organization that administers it.

Strive neither contributed to, nor withdrew directly from the fund, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry president Denise Spencer has said.

The scholarship program was funded by two donors, according to Emmy Rooney, the vice president for development and donor services for the Community Foundation.

One donor had set up a fund for Strive students about 10 years ago. That fund was designated to end in 2011, she said. The other donor decided whether to provide scholarships for Strive students on an annual basis, Rooney said. No money had been set aside for Strive students this year.

The scholarships, which last year ranged from $500 to $1,200, were one-time stipends sent directly to the winners' colleges.

According to Strive's report to the district, 24 graduating Hilton Head High seniors received scholarships in 2011.

Sports writer Stephen Fasteneau contributed to this report.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Strive to Excel will cease operations at the end of this year; Dec. 17, 2011
  2. District: Strive to Excel's re-submitted report 'comprehensive'; Dec. 16, 2011
  3. Sources: Singleton has long muddled mission, finances of Strive, football; Oct. 2, 2011
  4. Strive students happy with program, district survey shows; Sept. 24, 2011
  5. Superintendent announces Strive to Excel changes; Sept. 20, 2011
  6. Salary for nonprofit head comes under scrutiny; Aug. 29, 2011

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