The Grace Fund pays for the “extras” not covered by financial aid. Everyone in the Penn Charter community is welcome and encouraged to attend the Grace Fund Party Saturday, May 13, to show support for this important initiative. Tickets.
By Maggie Lockwood P '19, '22, '28
It’s hard to say there is a typical student or family at Penn Charter. Families come from more than 100 different zip codes, from all cultures, faiths and means. This diversity gives the PC community its distinctive personality. To support its mission and the school’s Quaker principles of equality and diversity, Penn Charter has from the very beginning provided need-based financial aid; this past year, PC gave out more than $10 million in financial aid to 41 percent of the student body.
Still, because financial aid covers only tuition, there are extra costs that come up – books, athletic equipment, calculators, field trip fees, musical instruments, prom tickets.
“For some families these are all minor expenditures, for others they may be prohibitive, therefore depriving those students access to the full Penn Charter experience,” Assistant Head of School Beth Glascott said.
In 2008, to honor the memory of Penn Charter Overseer Grace Russell Wheeler, Head of School Darryl J. Ford suggested a new, full-access fund to ease income disparities that could interfere with the PC experience. Former PC parent and grandparent Grace Russell Wheeler, who served as overseer for 28 years, had recently passed away, and the Grace Fund was quickly oversubscribed with memorial donations. “The overflow gifts needed a ‘home’ and starting the Grace Fund with these gifts was perfectly aligned with who my mother was and what she would have suggested,” Grace Cooke, Wheeler’s daughter, said.
Cooke, an Overseer herself and a parent of two OPCs, says her mother’s desire for equality in student experience actually began when Penn Charter went co-ed. “When planning for co-education, she was convinced the school must be able to provide PC girls with facilities and programming that equalled programs in place for PC boys,” Cooke said. “An urban school that draws students from more than 100 zip codes becomes a sort of social center for the student body. Travel, prom participation, school trips and school supplies – no student should lack such essential experiences and possessions."
The fund can distribute as much as $50,000 in a year to students, according to Glascott, who administers the Grace Fund. Families have used Grace Fund grants to access PC summer academic courses and day camp; books; computer loaner fees; class trips across all three divisions; breakfast and lunch costs; educational testing and tutoring; PC after-school programs; optional trips for MS and US students.
Faculty and staff continue to support the initiative; their gifts to the Annual Fund are channeled to the Grace Fund. On May 13, the entire Penn Charter community is invited to support the vision of a level playing field by attending the Grace Fund fundraiser at Timmons House from 6:30-10:30 p.m.
The theme is “Back to Prom” and event chair Michelle Sage predicts it will be a high energy, fun evening with an ’80s vibe.
The goal of the event, which is sponsored by the Parent Community, is to raise between $15,000 to $20,000 for the Grace Fund.
Tickets have been kept at an affordable level to encourage attendance. There are sponsorship opportunities and a silent auction for unique school-related items, sports tickets, vacation homes and special party events.
“I really believe in the Grace Fund and I am happy to chair this event,” Sage said. “I hope to get people out in droves.”
Cooke believes the fund exemplifies what she and her siblings love about the school. “No one need feel left out – the doors are always open and the stage is set for anyone who cares to walk on it,” Cooke said. “It's a great way to build a community of equals!”