By Matthew Gomez
Sandra Galvan’s dreams of attending college would never have become a reality had she not received donations from a handful of strangers.
In all, Galvan received $4,000 after creating a profile on ScholarMatch.org, a website where donors sift through the profiles of hopeful high school students and can give scholarships in any dollar amount. She is now a second-semester City College student who hopes to be a social worker.
“It would have been impossible for me to attend City College,” said Galvan, a first-generation college student whose family immigrated from Mexico.
ScholarMatch, based on similar donation models like DonorsChoose and Kiva, is the brainchild of author Dave Eggers and his 826 organization, which began in the Mission in 2002 with a tutoring center called 826 Valencia.
“All of the students got their money through the generosity of multiple donors,” Executive Director of ScholarMatch Miel Alegre said. “We’ve been able to accomplish a lot and we hope to accomplish more.”
ScholarMatch started in May 2010 and so far $80,000 has been donated among 56 students.
“It’s kind of like a donor-matching place,” said Emilie Coulson, programs director at 826 Valencia.
ScholarMatch is like an extension of the five $10,000 scholarships 826 Valencia offers every year to high school seniors. Around 100 students apply, which complicates the decision.
“You have 100 great applications and you can only pick five,” Alegre said. “How do you address those other applicants?”
ScholarMatch plans to evolve into a support center that helps students in all aspects of applying to college.
They want to hold workshops that teach students how to write cover letters, personal statements, resumes and fill out applications.
“It’s not like we hand them off to college,” Alegre said. “They’re always going to naturally be connected to us.”
Students who receive scholarships must also regularly update a blog on their profile so donors can see how students are adjusting to college life. The number of donors and their identities are not told to the students, but a donor can choose to meet with a student if they please.
“One of the donors actually wanted to meet me,” Galvan said. “I like the fact that he came all the way to Gateway High to meet me.”
She hasn’t had any more contact with donors, but Galvan said it feels like they really care and she updates her blog monthly.
ScholarMatch is still a small organization with only three staff members, but they are committed to helping any student have a chance to attend college.
“It’s an interesting balance to try and get as many students as much money as possible,” Alegre said.