5 area students receive grant to pay for college fees, educational tools

By Samantha Phillips



Three Liberty students and two Youngstown students earned a grant that gives them a hand up, not a handout.

The Stephens Public Schools’ Student Grant Fund awards students who need financial help with $1,000 to help them make necessary purchases for academics and extracurricular activities.

This is the first year students could apply for the grant. The student must be of good character and recommended by at least one teacher. Grade-point average is not a major factor in selecting students.

“We are overwhelmed with appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity,” said Akesha Joseph, Liberty High School principal.

Tom Stephens graduated from East High School and wanted to give back to students in the Youngstown area. He emphasized it’s not a handout – it assists students with ambition. “Its purpose is to help public high-school students achieve their visions of themselves as they enter adulthood,” Stephens said.

In Liberty, high-school senior Matt Coppola used the grant to pay for a speech and debate tournament fee and for college application fees.

Coppola, who recently qualified for nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said participating in an extra tournament in Pennsylvania gave him the competitive advantage he needed. Without the grant, he said he couldn’t have gone.

Also thanks to the grant, he was able to apply to various schools, and he was recently accepted into the University of Southern California to study economics.

Aaron Cousin, a junior, said he used the grant for a much-needed laptop, which he hopes to use throughout the rest of high school and college. He also bought a new calculator and a printer for his assignments.

“We are extremely appreciative of the grant,” he said.

Simele Moananu, sophomore, used the grant for new clothes and to pay for a summer science, technology, engineering and mathematics camp.

Additionally, Aryca Bennett and Deshante Allen, juniors at East High School, used the grants for electronic equipment to help them with their studies. Deshante is also using the grant for new track equipment.

Stephens said he would like to continue the grant program next year in the two schools. The Youngstown State University graduate dedicated his life to working in the fields of psychology and education in hospitals and schools. He was the first director of the Ohio Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented Program, founded Ohio State University’s Center for Special Needs Populations and helped develop the YSU school psychology program.

Richard VanVoorhis, associate professor and program director of the YSU school psychology program, is the regional liaison for the grant, and he said it’s encouraging to see administrators taking part in the grant.

“There is an old saying, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’ Tom Stephens spent his career planting little acorns and then nurturing this act into developing mighty oaks,” he said.

Tom and his wife, Evelyn Stephens, also established student scholarships in their names at Ohio State University and Youngstown State University.

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