By Kate Tobiasson, Contributing Writer
Westborough – For nearly 25 years, the Charlotte Spinney Vision Scholarship has been making a difference in the lives of Westborough School children, providing scholarships through a unique mentorship program.
“We’ve had some of our kids say that this program saved their lives – it changed the way that they saw themselves,” Spinney said. “Our foundation helped them realize someone saw them, and let them know that they had what it takes.”
Rather than awarding scholarships through an essay submission during senior year of high school, the foundation selects Westborough school children who are at the end of seventh grade. The scholarship looks for children who have demonstrated potential for academic success, but need mentoring and further support to find success in their academic careers. Each student is assigned a middle school, high school and community mentor. All three mentors regularly work with the award recipients throughout the next five years, providing support in academics and beyond. Both junior and senior year, the recipients are given $500 for school-related expenses; SATs, college exams, prom tickets, yearbooks, and field trips are all within the scope of expenses that the scholarship has contributed to throughout the years. The foundation communicates with the guidance departments at Westborough High School and the Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School, and helps to support their students as needed.
“We’re someone who is there as an extra person in their lives, encouraging them to reach their potentials – just to be there for them. In general, we have been very successful,” Spinney noted. “Our foundation helps gives them self-confidence and make the right choices.”
Born in Westborough, Spinney began teaching in 1958 and has seen a tremendous change in the dynamics of her hometown.
“When I was growing up and first teaching in Westborough, it was a small middle/working-class community,” she recalled. “People knew everyone in town. That changed once things like 495 went in and the main highways began to come together. Many of the farms and apple orchards were sold and large tracts of houses were put in – the economic structure of the community changed. Life changes! I don’t spend time moaning and groaning about it.”
Founded in 1995, the Charlotte Spinney Vision Scholarship has helped dozens of children. Spinney founded the scholarship with friend Betty George who also retired from the Westborough School system after an impressive tenure. Today, the foundation is run by a generous board, and depends on the support of the town.
“Anytime that someone is in difficulty in Westborough, the community always comes through. We see that with all of the various groups in town; the town always steps forward to help…The scholarship was so unique that it gained a lot of attention and funding over a long period of time. We were so successful; we grew faster than we thought we would. We are re-introducing ourselves to the community to let people know that, 25 years later, we’re asking for support,” she explained.
This year, the foundation has begun actively seeking donations. An anonymous donor has agreed to match donations made to the scholarship fund through June 30, 2019, up to $25,000. Spinney noted that the foundation is almost halfway to their goal.
At the end of June, Spinney will be retiring and Carrie Brown will be taking the lead of the foundation.
“We’re constantly looking at our program, and considering how to evolve it,” she said. “This foundation is not a one-woman operation. It takes so many people to help buttress these kids and change the way that they see themselves.”
Donations may be made to the Charlotte Spinney Foundation on Facebook or checks may be mailed to: Avidia Bank Attn: Kimberly Perkins, 100 East Main St., Westborough, MA 01581.
In addition, the Knights of Columbus will hold a “Knights at the Races” event Saturday, March 30. A portion of the proceeds from the evening will go to the Charlotte Spinney Foundation.
Any questions or those willing to volunteer should contact Charlotte Spinney at [email protected].