Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund?

The Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship provides an opportunity for financially disadvantaged seniors in DC Public Schools to attend college.  Quakers have been running this program for more than thirty years, first through Friends Meeting of Washington, DC, and now joined by Bethesda Friends Meeting and Langley Hill Friends Meeting.  The need is great, and these meetings are now looking for broader Quaker support.

Who Benefits?

Only students who are in financial need are eligible: commonly, family income ranges from $10,000 to $35,000. In some cases, students subsist with no family income.  Some students have been homeless or living in shelters. Some have been abused, or have witnessed terrible violence and hardship.  In almost all cases, they are the first in their family to go to college — many are the first to graduate high school.

These scholarships help students who have shown grit and determination to succeed against long odds. Many chosen recipients are graduating near the top of their class, and are active in giving back to others. 

  • One such high school student had become an eagle scout at the age of 15. When he got to college, he suffered panic attacks when he faced exams.  He sought out the university’s academic success center, got a tutor, and developed study habits and skills that are now a model for others in the scholarship program.   This resourceful young man takes additional college classes in the summer, works part time, and is now studying to become a product science engineer.
  • Another grant recipient was brutally abused by a gang of thugs when she was 14.  She didn’t allow herself to be crushed by the experience: instead, she organized classes in her high school for other teenagers who have endured abuse. Today, with the help of the Mary Jane Simpson Fund, she is studying to become a nurse. 
  • One girl had been abandoned by her relatives and put out on the street at the age of 14. She lived in a facility for homeless children throughout high school and managed her food and all other needs on a $45 monthly stipend.  She has had setbacks at college: she had to change to a more affordable university and worked 20 hours each week, and briefly dropped out when she gave birth.  She is now getting the emotional support she needs from a partner and the love of her daughter, and she has resumed her studies to become a neonatal nurse while she continues to work part-time.

While in college, many of the grantees are working to help support a parent or siblings, as they had done through high school.

Are there special categories of students who may qualify for this scholarship while barred from other financial assistance?

Yes, these are two very important groups of people who may find obtaining money for college extremely difficult but are welcomed to apply for the Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship.

       Conscientious objectors to war and registration for the military draft

As part of our peace testimony, Friends have always supported those who take a stand of conscience against war. Men who refused to register for the military draft as a matter of conscience are barred from federal and most state aid. Beyond this, now that FAFSA can only be completed online, the men who refuse to register cannot even apply for most private funding much of which requires a completed FAFSA form. The Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund application specifically provides for an alternative method for applicants who cannot use the FASFA from because they have refused and continue to refuse to register for the military draft.

       Undocumented Students

As part of our peace testimony, Friends support those who seek to make the United States their home — especially those who seek refuge from war or extremem economic hardship in their homeland. Then too, many students were brought by their parents to the United States when they were very young and have known no other home. The Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund encourages those who do not have a resident visa for whatever reason, but have graduated from DC Public schools, to apply. The lack of a resident visa will not exclude them from consideration for the scholarship.

How much is the scholarship?

Each grantee currently receives $6,000.  It is disbursed in $1,500 installments for each academic year.  Five or more scholarships are given each year, depending on the funding available.  Typically the funds are used for books, computers or to provide grant funding in place of unaffordable student loans.  The grants are disbursed evenly through the four years of college because such funding is often less available to upper class students.

Does the scholarship provide non-financial assistance?

Yes, the ongoing financial support offers the opportunity to aid students in other meaningful ways.  

When a student is awarded a grant, he or she is assigned a mentor from the Mary Jane Simpson committee.  The mentors stay in touch with students during the school year, to help the students troubleshoot problems they are facing.

Are there any requirements that the students must meet after the award of the scholarship?

The students expected to write to their mentors each summer, to explain how they have done during the past year and to discuss new challenges in their academic careers.  The Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund also requires students to send in their college transcripts and course matriculation records each summer, prior to the release of the following year’s funding. 

Are there any other activities that support the scholars?

Starting in July 2013, the Mary Jane Simpson Fund began an annual networking meeting for awardees. In this networking session, Upper class students gave much-needed advice to incoming freshmen. Some of the practical and astute insight shared by the upper classmen included: “In each course, start preparing for your exam on the first day of class;”  “Go to the Academic Success Center and sign up for mentoring;” “Bring a friend when you go to a professor’s office for help.” The new students asked lots of questions and listened raptly to the advice of older students.  But the older students have made it clear they find this event helpful as well.

Who Manages and Funds the Program?

A committee representing participating Friends Meetings manages the scholarship program. Members are responsible for raising funds, working with school guidance counselors to solicit applications, interviewing and selecting grantees, and serving as mentors. The operations of the fund, and bios of the new grantees, are presented each year to participating Meetings.

The fund has no overhead, and all resources mobilized are disbursed as scholarship grants. The funding comes from individuals and Friends Meetings.   Friends have also designated the Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund for receipt of gifts in honor of important occasions such as weddings as well as memorial gifts in honor of loved ones, and in their estate planning.

What Is the Fund’s History?

The Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund is named in honor of a social worker and counselor in the DC Public Schools who was a member of Friends Meeting of Washington. Seeing such need, she launched the fund — initially baking cookies to raise money — and was its strong champion. As of 2015, the program has awarded 111 scholarships to graduates of DC Public High schools snce its inception in 1981.

For more information

Please contact committee clerk Anne Kendall, phone 202 686 7699, ext. 12

Or use the Contact Page to send a message to the committee.
( Be sure to select Mary Jane Simpson Scholarship Fund as the contact category. )