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 given to one in four ECFS students, providing an educational experience that allows students to feel secure in their environment and to have access to all that ECFS has to offer, while also building community across 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 role of financial aid at ECFS and how the community can support this crucial component of our School.
For Daley, one of the most gratifying parts of her job is watching the students who she’s gotten to know walk across the stage at Commencement. “It’s very rewarding to look at the list of names and see that they did it — they made it to senior year. I look forward to that moment,” she says. “It’s thrilling.”
Helping get students to the finish line of Commencement is central to the work that Daley does. 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 to ensure they can continue to attend through graduation. When allocating funds, the first priority goes to students 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, safe environment for students 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 knowing that you will be able to continue being there.”
Guerrero agrees, saying that giving students a place they can feel secure is important to their experience at ECFS. “If they’re feeling like at any point they may not be able to come back, 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 feel safe at ECFS is that the assistance goes beyond just offsetting tuition costs. Students can receive funds to help purchase books, go on school trips, play sports, and take part in many facets of an ECFS experience that allow them to feel as though they are fully welcomed into the School.
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 to students from different backgrounds directly reflect the ECFS’s core tenet of inclusivity as well as the School’s mission. This creates a multifaceted learning experience for all students, one that brings in different viewpoints, lived experiences, and perspectives. “Being able to offer admission to so many students who want to be a part of this community,” says Guerrero, “means we can build and sustain this amazing community. The diversity of voices from a variety of neighborhoods and backgrounds makes ECFS a dynamic, incredible place to be.”
One of the ways that the financial aid program is sustained is through ongoing support from donors, says Turshen. “We hear on a regular basis from alumni and parents of graduates who were recipients of financial aid,” she says. “For many people, being able to receive that assistance was so powerful that they’ll always make a point of giving back to the program.” Those gifts range from an alumni 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 to 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 come to this 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 knew the impact that their gift — of whatever size — will have on families who do receive financial aid, it would be very motivating for them to support the Orange Fund,” says Turshen.
That impact is one that Guerrero knows firsthand from his time as a student at ECFS who received assistance. “For me, financial aid was a game changer. If that wasn’t an option, we couldn’t have even considered 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 just invaluable.”
Gifts to the Orange Fund help support ECFS’s financial aid program. Make your gift here today.