First in Family Scholarships Give Local Students a Needed Boost

by Jonathan Everitt

John Ernst ’16 almost didn’t start at Nazareth last fall. Although he had already been accepted, Ernst decided to attend community college first—to save money. Then a text from his dad changed everything.

“He said, ‘I just got an email about a full ride to Nazareth,’” Ernst says. And he was on his way.

Ernst entered Nazareth in fall 2012, thanks to a new scholarship program from the Rochester-based Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation. First in Family Scholarships—for which the foundation has committed $3.5 million—go to students from Monroe and Ontario counties who are attending nine area colleges, including Nazareth.

The scholarship program covers students’ entire undergraduate education, for the next three entering classes, says Thomas Jackson, University of Rochester president emeritus and a Farash Foundation trustee. “This idea of First in Family was to support those who come from families where higher education isn’t the norm.” The scholarships, which place no income limit on families, are designed to bridge the gap between each school’s financial aid package and the actual cost of attendance, right down to school supplies.

It’s welcome news to Ernst, a 2012 graduate of Rush-Henrietta High School. He’s considering a double major in anthropology and religious studies with minors in German and music. He plays guitar. And he wants to work with people—an opportunity he’ll have this year, as the foundation requires scholarship community service. Ernst works five hours per week between serving as a Boy Scout troop leader and teaching English to Burmese refugees.

This new scholarship program arrived not a moment too soon. Corporate giving has declined, and foundations make a difference. More than 90% of Nazareth students receive some kind of financial aid, and most of the students rely on scholarships. All this makes the Farash program especially prized.

“Nazareth is honored to participate in a program that is changing lives in ways that will have a lasting positive impact on our community,” says Mary Kay Bishop ’89, director of advancement at Nazareth. Success of the Farash program will be measured in more than diplomas, says Jackson. “Are these students giving back to the community? Is there a recognizable notion that they are a group, the First in Family scholars?”

Still, Ernst’s measure of his own success is broader. A college education is invaluable, he agrees. But he wasn’t the first in his family to succeed in equally important ways. “I would never consider myself more successful than my mom and dad or my grandparents, because they’ve always been happy,” he says.

A fine foundation, that.

Jonathan Everitt is a copywriter in Rochester, NY.

John Ernst

Read more about supporting Nazareth scholarships: