Monomoy Dollars For Scholars Celebrates 55th Anniversary

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: Monomoy Regional High School , Chatham , Harwich

Monomoy Regional High School recently received a grant for more than $44,000 from Project Lead The Way, a national nonprofit organization that creates engaging classroom environments. FILE PHOTO

Beginning with the closures of the Chatham and Harwich High Schools and the opening of Monomoy Regional High School, the Lower Cape has experienced many changes over the years.

However, the more some things change, the more others stay the same.

Among the organizations that have survived the test of time is Monomoy’s Dollars for Scholars program, which is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year. Like most aspects of life, though, the Dollars for Scholars program has undergone its own changes over the years.

“For years, we were Chatham Dollars for Scholars,” said Dee Tripp, a Chatham resident who serves as President on the Monomoy Dollars for Scholars committee. “Until 2014 actually, and then we merged with Harwich.

“Chatham and Harwich was a great rivalry for years and years, but we didn’t want that anymore. We wanted everybody under one roof and to be friends.”

According to the Monomoy Dollars for Scholars website, the idea of addressing costs for colleges and universities came in 1964, when “a group of Chatham residents got together to address the problem of too many kids not being able to go to college because of financial need."

Two years later, the Chatham group learned there was a national organization named “Dollars for Scholars” aimed to provide assistance.

“Chatham came under the umbrella of Citizen’s Scholarship Foundation of America, Inc., taking the name of Citizen’s Scholarship Foundation of Chatham,” the site reads before noting that $2,600 was awarded to 19 students at Chatham High School during that first year.

“We recognized there were many kids in Chatham who needed financial aid,” said Chatham resident Norma Avellar, who’s one of the founders of the Chatham’s Dollars for Scholars organization.

“Financial aid is not the same as a scholarship,” Avellar continued. “A scholarship is a reward for academic achievement. Financial aid is a recognition for the need of money. They are very, very different things and people needed to know there was a difference between the two, but there was a need for both.”

Over the years, various fundraising practices have been introduced to help raise money for the fund. Past and present members of the committee rave about the “Dollars for Scholars Drive,” which previously served as an effective way to collect funds for many years.

“Years ago, they’d do a Dollars for Scholars Drive that people would go out on a particular day and they’d go in groups and canvass neighborhoods,” said Pilgrim Village owner Peter Swenson, who said he first joined the Dollars for Scholars committee around 1980. “They’d raise a few thousand dollars doing that and it got the kids involved.”

When the two towns’ Dollar for Scholars programs merged under the umbrella of Monomoy, Monomoy Regional School District Dr. Scott Carpenter requested that they no longer continue that fundraiser, according to Tripp.

“Anybody who graduated from Chatham knows they’d meet once a year and the seniors would be in charge of it and they’d recruit some of the underclassmen and had a map where they’d go,” explained Tripp. “However, when we merged, it just became something that was too big for us to handle with all of the maps and so on. In this day and age, it was frowned upon and Mr. Carpenter asked us not to do it, so we haven’t.”

Avellar and Swenson both said they feel like the disappearance of the Dollars for Scholars Drive has negatively impacted the fundraising efforts.

“I think the reason it’s gone so long and was so successful is because the kids were an integral part of it,” Avellar said when asked about the 55th anniversary. “They are not now. Some very real important and valuable relationships grew out of those drives because the kids were involved and they met older people they would’ve never met before because they’re from totally different backgrounds.

“It was a good way for the ages to come together.”

Tripp said the fundraising has “become a big problem since we became Monomoy Dollars for Scholars,” and noted the organization has held Hoop-A-Thons in the past, but cited those events were “a lot of work and not very successful.”

Fundraising has become even tougher this year with COVID-19 making it nearly impossible for the organization to hold events.

“It’s been horrible this year,” Tripp admitted. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Monomoy Dollars for Scholars does have money saved from memorial funds from over the years. Although those donors don’t have an opportunity to choose a specific recipient when they leave money behind, they can fill out criteria of what they want and Tripp and the other committee members can match their request with a student who meets their criteria.

There are multiple groups of scholarships; one is open to any senior from Monomoy Regional High School, including School Choice kids from other towns. Chatham and Harwich residents who attend neighboring schools – Nauset, Cape Cod Tech, Sturgis and St. John Paul II – can also apply. The deadline for applications is April 1.

There are also continuing education scholarships given out to college kids. Tripp said that portal opens Sept. 1 and is for second-, third- and fourth-year college students as well as students attending accredited trade schools.

Tripp said the organization awarded scholarships worth approximately $140,000 to about 104 students last year, though she noted there’s no way of knowing how much money has been raised or how many scholarships have been doled out its 55-year history.

To learn more about Monomoy Dollars for Scholars or to donate, visit bit.ly/2Zm0fup online or call Tripp directly at 508-945-2227.

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com