GN fund helps students pay for college

GN fund helps students pay for college
Several members of the GSNAF board with Assemblyman Tony D'Urso, Senator Anna Kaplan, and Legislator Ellen Birnbaum. (Photo courtesy of Jill Monoson)

It is no secret that the cost of higher education has been growing since the new millennium. In fact, the most recent studies by the College Board showed that the average cost for one year at a public university was just over $25,000.

Not everyone has the financial resources to obtain a degree. Enter the Great Neck Student Aid Fund, one of the longest-standing organizations the community has to deal with this issue.

To raise money, on Sept. 22 the organization will hold a Fun Walk for Education, a one-mile saunter around Great Neck Plaza, with the starting point and finish line at Village Hall.

The organization has been helping those in need of financial support for close to 90 years, using community donations and small fund-raisers to help high school graduates every year pursue their collegiate endeavors. Since its first year in 1931, the organization has helped around 10 percent of local graduating seniors. Students are selected by the board with all factors taken into consideration, based mainly on need.

Due to the rising costs of higher education, the organization has made larger donations to a smaller number of students in recent years. The organization will give out 20 scholarships this year.

“Everything we do is for our collective community,” President Elise Kestenbaum said. “Our board consisting of 30 members work tirelessly to get donations in and do so much out of their own pockets to raise awareness for this local cause.”

Many in the organization have used their time to find ways to engage the younger community.

“I think there is a slight disconnect with the older generation vs. the younger one,” said Kestenbaum. “It’s understandable, but the organization realized that we needed to find a way and reach that younger community. What we do after all is in support of their own classmates and peers.”

Last year’s inaugural Fun Walk featured around 60 participants, raising around $5,000. Local politicians such as Assemblyman Tony D’Urso (D-Port Washington), county Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and others attended.

A former recipient of the grant, Michael Weinstock, will be a guest speaker at the event again this year. Weinstock went on to attend the University of Iowa before attending St. John’s Law School. Now Weinstock is a candidate for New York’s 3rd Congressional District.

“Michael’s story is one of many that have reflected everything our organization is about,” said event Chairwoman Jill Monoson. “Seeing a collective group of people come together to support, and put their faith in the select members of their community is what our organization’s mission is all about.”

This year’s walk will take place Sunday, Sept. 22, at 10 a.m. at the Great Neck Plaza Village Hall. Registration for the event begins at 9 a.m., with fees of $20 for adults and $10 for students. Registration can also be done before the event, online, at

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