Amherst Helps Raise $50K for Scholarships

By Bruce Bobbins

The Annual Seven Sisters Mountain Run covers 16 miles over 14 peaks, with 3,700 feet of climb. But for the dozens of Amherst lacrosse team members and other students who ran this year's race, tackling the tough and often treacherous terrain of the Massachusetts range was nothing compared to the obstacles that the boys and girls from New York who benefitted from the proceeds of the run have had to overcome, including impoverishment and broken homes.

So, for the runners, who came away from the seven-hour trek exhausted, bruised and battered, that made their formidable effort all worth it. Indeed, this year's run by the Jeffs over the Holyoke range raised more than $30,000 for Student Sponsor Partners, a not-for-profit that addresses the high school dropout crisis in New York City by providing under-served students with four years of college-preparatory education. All SSP students are paired with sponsors who offer financial support and mentors who offer one-on-one mentoring, thus making a meaningful impact on their lives.

Members of the SSP Board matched a portion of the Amherst funds, bringing the total to nearly $50,000. That translates into full four-year high school scholarships for three impoverished boys and girls to attend the best private schools and be mentored so that they can achieve in school and in life, according to Dr. Margaret Minson, SSP executive director.

Team coach Jon Thompson said that, "Facing a little bit of pain during the run is nothing when you think of the hardships that the SSP students face on a daily basis. In fact, to be able to make a difference in their lives by helping provide them with a top quality education is an honor."

He added that the annual run has benefits for the team: "It brings us all together to look at the bigger picture and for the common cause of changing the communities around us. That makes for a stronger, more cohesive team and a stronger, more cohesive world."

"I can't thank the Amherst lacrosse team enough for what they have done for SSP. They are winners in every sense of the word," Dr. Minson said. "They ran mountains, but they have also moved mountains, enabling us to further our mission to give students from the lowest socio-economic families educational and life opportunities that they may not have otherwise been able to experience."

Dr. Minson noted that the support of the Amherst lacrosse team pays long-term dividends. In 1986, 45 students started high school at two partner schools with the support of 45 sponsors and mentors. Since then, nearly 5,000 SSP students have graduated from high school, and in 2013 over 1,400 SSP students are in 25 partner schools. Over 85% of SSP students graduate from high school each year. This compares to a rate of approximately 61% among their peers.


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