Youngsters at Edison Elementary School face a lot of challenges, but they've been given a boost by an anonymous donor who pledged to pay for free college educations for those who do well in junior high and high school.
The donor has set up a fund to help Edison students who eventually qualify for college."It's neat," declared Edison Principal Dale Harding. "It's probably the neatest thing I've ever heard of in my whole life."
Students will have to have grades good enough to get into a Utah institution of higher education and stay there. They must enroll on or before their 20th birthday and must finish college before age 23. The donor apparently plans to round up other benefactors to continue the scholarship fund in the future.
The donor said he offered the money out of admiration for Harding's efforts to turn around a troubled school. Edison students have a lot to contend with - 97 percent are from low-income families, many don't speak English and many are no strangers to domestic violence or gang activity.
Harding said students this age probably are too young to really understand what college is all about. "But the amazing thing is that it has given these kids the knowledge that they have a possibility. They never even thought of college before."
Harding plans meetings with parents to let them know about the new opportunity.
Dani Phifer, president of the PTA, said she planned to send her children to college, but said this inspiring gift will make achieving such goals easier.
"It's because of Dr. Harding and all the great things he's done," Phifer said of the donation. "I'm impressed that somebody would care enough about him and these kids to give them the opportunity they might not otherwise get."