At the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, financial aid is integral to creating a community that is welcoming, accessible, and reflective of New York City. Financial aid is awarded to one in four ECFS students, providing an educational experience where students receiving aid can feel secure in their environment and have access to all that ECFS has to offer, while also strengthening the community experience for all students and families. We spoke to Victoria Daley, Director of Financial Aid; Charles Guerrero ’89, Director of Enrollment Management; and Rose Turshen P’31, P’34, Director of Development, about the impact financial aid has at ECFS and how our community can support this crucial component of our School.
For Daley, one of the most gratifying parts of her job is watching the students she’s gotten to know as they walk across the stage at Commencement. “It’s very rewarding to look at the list of names and see that they really did it — they made it to senior year. I always look forward to that moment,” she says. “It’s thrilling.”
Helping get students reach the finish line of Commencement is central to the work that Daley does, as the support provided by the Financial Aid Office can sometimes be the reason that students are able to attend the School. And once students are enrolled, the office works diligently to ensure they can continue to attend through graduation. When allocating funds, the first priority is students who are currently enrolled — only once the financial aid needs of all current families have been considered will aid be allocated to newly enrolling families. Being able to provide a steady, stable environment for students at the School is crucial for the School. “Once you join a community and you become part of it, you’re part of the family,” says Daley. “You want to feel comfortable in the knowledge that you will continue to be a part of that family.”
Guerrero agrees, saying that giving students a place they can feel secure is vital to their experience at ECFS. “If they’re feeling like at any point they may not be able to come back at the start of the next academic year, it’s very hard for students to form attachments and go all-in on the community,” Guerrero notes. “It’s really important that they know the rug won’t be pulled out from under them.”
Part of what allows students who receive financial aid to feel fully engaged at ECFS is that the assistance goes beyond just offsetting tuition costs. Students receive funds to help them purchase books, go on school trips, play sports, and take part in many facets of an ECFS experience that allow them to feel fully welcomed by the School and their peers.
The scope of ECFS’s financial aid program — more than $17.4 million will be distributed this year — and the School’s commitment to increasing access for students from different backgrounds directly reflect ECFS’s core tenet of inclusivity, as well as the School’s core mission of equity. This creates a multifaceted learning experience for all students — one that prioritizes different viewpoints, lived experiences, and perspectives. “Being able to offer admission to so many students who want to be a part of ECFS,” says Guerrero, “means we can build and sustain this amazing community. The diversity of voices from a variety of neighborhoods and backgrounds makes the School a dynamic, incredible place to learn.”
One of the ways that the financial aid program is sustained is through ongoing support from donors, says Turshen. That support is often inspired by a firsthand knowledge of the powerful impact of the program on students. “We hear on a regular basis from alumni and parents of graduates who were recipients of financial aid,” she says. “For many people, that assistance was so powerful that they’ll always make a point of giving back to the program.” Those gifts range from a graduate who gives $10 every year to an alumni who reached out to make a $250,000 donation decades after they graduated.
But even those who didn’t directly receive financial aid benefit from it, says Daley, and families should support fundraising efforts that ensure their children’s classmates have the ability to live the ECFS experience. “That’s why people contribute to financial aid and to the Orange Fund — so that all kids can be a part of our School, not just some kids,” she says. “It enriches the experience for everyone.”
Every bit of support has a big impact. “I think that if people really knew the impact that their gift — of whatever size — can have on families who receive financial aid, it would motivate and inspire them to support the Orange Fund,” says Turshen.
That impact is one that Guerrero knows personally from his time as a student at ECFS who received financial assistance. “For me, financial aid was a game changer. If that weren’t an option, my family couldn’t even have considered sending me to ECFS,” he says. “Being able to come from a New York City Housing Authority development in the South Bronx to Fieldston laid a foundation for my life beyond ECFS that was absolutely invaluable.”
Gifts to the Orange Fund help support ECFS’s financial aid program. Make your gift here today.