Community Foundation honors OPRF Alumni Association
OPRF High School Alumni Association leader Bobbie Raymond (far left) joins four students at a November reception celebrating their summer enrichment programs. At the annual receptions, each student shares his or her experience with the rest of those gath
Oak Park — When she was 15 years old, before her senior year at Oak Park-River Forest High School, Roberta “Bobbie” Raymond enrolled in a five-week summer program that drew students from around the country to Northwestern University’s campus in Evanston.
That was nearly 60 years ago, and as sometimes happens when teenagers are ushered into a different environment with inspired and motivated peers, her life was forever changed by her first extended time away from home.
Now Raymond and a group of other dedicated Oak Park-River Forest High School graduates share that gift with the current generation of high school students. Since 2003, the OPRFHS Alumni Association has helped more than 400 high school students through the organization’s Summer Enrichment Program.
Their efforts have garnered the organization recognition as this year’s Outstanding Philanthropic Business/Group for the Excellence in Philanthropy Award.
Conferred by the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, the award will be given publicly on Tuesday, Feb. 26, during the organization’s annual Celebration of Philanthropic Excellence. The event will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park.
In the program’s first decade, about $155,000 has been provided to 404 students who are between their freshman and junior years at OPRFHS.
Individual grants typically range from $250 to $1,000, though last year an anonymous donor made $15,000 available to provide grants of up to $4,000 apiece. That sum will be available again this year, with the larger grants going to the neediest students who have no other sources of support for their summer courses.
Last year, the donor also established a three-year matching grant challenge that could raise upwards of $400,000.
The Alumni Association board of directors is composed of grads from across various decades at the high school and meets every two months to determine and carry out policy.
After a Scholarship Committee decides which students will receive support, the grants help send them to a wide range of camps, programs and workshops — from dance to foreign language, from music to engineering.
Sometimes the programs in which they enroll are in the Chicago area. More often, they are in universities, music camps and arts programs throughout the United States, as well as courses in such far-flung locales as Tanzania, Antartica, France, Japan, Italy, and Spain.
Raymond said the program is one way to address the high school’s longstanding achievement gap, in which some black students lag behind other students academically. Often, those struggles are accompanied by a “deprivation of experiences” that would enrich them, said Raymond.
“We do a huge amount of outreach to try to interest all students in applying for these programs,” said Raymond. “We don’t look for only the ‘A’ students, but the ‘C’-level students as well.
The Celebration of Philanthropic Excellence will also honor the Hephzibah Huskies in the Outstanding Philanthropic Youth Group category, as well as one individual, Donna Myers of Oak Park. The Hephzibah Huskies do volunteer work with Hephzibah Children’s Association. Myers is a strong supporter of the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry.
Both organizations receive a $500 grant to a charity of its choice, while Myers’ award comes with a $1,000 grant that she has earmarked for the Food Pantry. Raymond said the alumni association will direct the money toward its Summer Enrichment Grant program in 2013.
The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation is in its 54th year. For more information, visit oprfcf.org or call (708) 848-1560. Find the Foundation on Facebook at facebook.com/OPRFCF. The Foundation office is at 1049 Lake St., with office hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
If you would like to nominate a person, a business or group or a youth or youth group for next year’s Excellence in Philanthropy Awards, contact the Foundation.