Columbia to award $1,000 grants to disadvantaged high school seniors

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COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia and Shelter Insurance are teaming up to help out a few underprivileged high school seniors.
They will award annual $1,000 grants to three high school seniors in an effort to provide financial support to students who demonstrate the financial need. 
Civic Relations Manager for the city of Columbia, Toni Messina, said she hopes the project provides resources that students might not otherwise have. 
"A well known fact that if you graduate from high school and especially if you graduate from college your chances of being able to support yourself and your family in the future are much greater than if you have not," Messina said. 
Seniors at Battle, Douglass, Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools are eligible for the awards. To be eligible, students must demonstrate financial need and good character, and have at least a 2.5 GPA upon graduation. They can use the money for tuition, books and housing. 
Each eligible student must also complete a neighborhood service project in one of three neighborhoods pointed out in Columbia's 2016-2019 Strategic Plan.
"Previously we really hadn't focused our efforts on communities in these neighborhoods, on the kids who live in those particular neighborhoods," Messina said. "It's been much more of either being a partner with the school system or focusing on services that the city typically provides the neighborhoods. 
The City's Social Equity Team developed the idea, then pitched it to Shelter Insurance executives, which then committed $12,000 to the project. 
"We're aware of their interest in providing higher education opportunities for area students," Messina said. "We're hoping that if it is successful that Shelter, or maybe another organization will continue or start to be another financial partner." 
Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017.  Application forms are available at the reception desk at City Hall.
"If this helps improve the odds for families and neighborhoods then we think that sounds like success," Messina said.