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Scholarship Providers of the Year Named

Scholarship Providers of the Year Named

Megan Barnes (left) and Kathy Simon Abels (right), from the Simon Family Foundation, accept the Independent Scholarship Provider of the Year Award from FastWeb Publisher, Mark Kantrowitz (center).

By Lauren Anderson Youngblood

October 29, 2009

When Ronald Simon’s company sold its first kitchen cabinet back in 1989, Simon hoped that his business would grow. What he never expected was to put hundreds of underprivileged kids through college. But that’s exactly what happened.

Today, Simon’s scholarship organization—the Simon Family Foundation— supports over 300 students throughout the country, spending roughly $32,000 on each, a year.

The Foundation was today named the Independent Scholarship Provider of the Year. Auburn University was named the College and University Scholarship Provider of the Year. The awards were given at the National Scholarship Providers Association annual conference in New Orleans. Both recipients accepted awards from nationally recognized financial aid expert, Mark Kantrowitz, who hand-selected each winner.

Both scholarships are geared toward underserved and at-risk communities.

The Simon Family Foundation is unique in that it begins providing support the summer before students’ junior year in high school.

Simon scholars receive a renewable $4,000 college grant, but that’s not all. They also get $1,000 cash to open a bank account, a notebook computer, SAT/ACT test preparation courses, academic tutoring, college coaching and application assistance. The organization also provides them with college campus tours, life-skills training, financial literacy seminars, etiquette courses, peer and professional mentoring, exposure to the arts and even takes them shopping for business attire, including suits.

Kathy Simon Abels, executive director of the Simon Family Foundation and the daughter of Ron Simon, said her family came up with the idea for the scholarship after her father’s company, RSI, which manufactures cabinetry, among other things, grew to a successful level. According to its website, the company has over 5,000 employees and made over $700 million in its first 18 years of business.

Abels said the family had a round-table family discussion on what to do with the money. Together, they decided donating it to education was the best move.

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