In 1987, Tom Cash, digging into his own pocket, created full four-year scholarships for 10 Jersey City students to attend private high schools in Hudson County. “I just felt that a lot of inner-city youth didn’t have the full opportunity, the ability to take advantage of the American Dream,” says Cash, 64, chairman of the Essex Lake Group, an international consulting firm. From those gifts arose the Student/Partner Alliance (studentpartneralliance.org). Since its founding in 1993, the organization has provided scholarships for more than 1,500 academically promising but economically disadvantaged teenagers.
Initially, Cash, a Short Hills resident, wanted to provide college scholarships. After researching the matter, he realized that numerous college scholarships were already available to inner-city students. Yet there was a catch: “How do they get the grades and test scores that get them accepted to college in the first place?” The problem, he concluded, had to be tackled earlier by enabling the students to attend effective private high schools.
S/PA works with 11 parochial schools in Newark, Jersey City and nearby towns. Students first apply for admission to one or more of the schools. If accepted, they then apply to S/PA for aid. In the program, each student is paired with a partner, usually an individual who donates a minimum of $1,500 a year toward tuition for four years. Last school year, 302 high school students studied under the program.
After serving as S/PA president for 18 years, Cash last spring passed those reins to Emmett Daly, 51, of Summit, though Cash will continue as chairman of the board. “He’s got tremendous enthusiasm and drive, real passion to help others,” says Cash of Daly, an investment banker who has been involved with S/PA since 1995 and has himself sponsored six students. “He’s one of those people who’s full of energy and can get things done.” Daly, who will tell you that Cash has been “the visionary” and “deserves the credit,” is doing just that.
Daly has already instituted a pilot program in which recent grads of the S/PA schools mentor current students. This also helps potential partners who want to make a financial commitment but may not be able to make the time commitment. The program has been very successful, Daly says, and is now expanding to three of S/PA’s affiliated high schools.