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$7M Capital Fund Launched To Support Education

$7 Million Capital Fund Launched To Support Education

An educational trust which links business with promising senior students in low-decile schools to provide tertiary scholarships has launched a $7 million capital fund to support expansion of its programme.

The First Foundation is aiming to raise the funds over five years, with Trust founder and Trustee, Steven Carden acknowledging that while the financial environment makes fund raising tough “it’s nothing compared to the difficulties facing the students we help, or the opportunities that will go begging”.

“There are more than 45,000 students in low-decile schools and they are five times more likely than their high decile peers to leave without the literacy or numeracy skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Yet against these odds, we’ve got tremendously talented students coming through, many of them coping with tough personal circumstances. By giving them a hand up, we’re ensuring that talent isn’t lost. New Zealand simply can’t afford to waste great resources and as times get tougher, the risk of that increases daily.”

The Foundation, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, has to date provided 189 scholarships for students from low-decile schools who have the talent to succeed at university, but are held back by financial circumstances.

The innovative programme partners students in the final year of secondary school with companies who provide paid holiday employment. Each student has to save $1200 a year from their earnings, which their partnering company tops up by $6,000 to help meet their tertiary fees. The First Foundation provides mentors and practical help to each student, including goal setting and careers advice. It has a success rate of more that 80% with students in the programme.

The Foundation offers scholarships in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and Mr Carden says one goal for the $7 million is to expand the programme beyond these three cities.

“The demand is certainly there, but we need the secure funding base to grow beyond our current base. We don’t want to offer hope one year and then turn our backs on people the next. The Capital Fund is aiming to get that level of funding security.”

Mr Carden said the Trust also had significant support in the business community with more than 60 companies offering the four-year scholarship and Telecom acting as principal sponsor.

“Their support goes well beyond simply writing a cheque and without them we could not function. But again a sustainable funding platform ensures we can provide the programmes which back up the scholarships and support the students and the Capital Fund seeks to achieve that.”

Mr Carden said he was optimistic the funds could be raised.

“Ten years ago I thought we were doing really well to offer three scholarships. This year we are offering 25. People will support a cause if they believe it is effective and the students who have gone through the programme are our best advertisement.”


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