River Counties Community Foundation recently awarded more than $550,000 in competitive grants to 47 Northumberland, Lancaster and Middlesex non-profit organizations. These grants were awarded within the foundation’s four focus areas; Cultural Vibrancy, Health and Wellness, Economic Prosperity and Educational Success. Jacob’s Ladder, a free program for intellectually gifted, at-risk children in grades 4-8, is one example of the 12 successful programs within the Educational Success focus area.
Students accepted into Jacob’s Ladder have demonstrated a desire and ability to excel; yet, face extreme barriers to achieving their academic potential. To help overcome these challenges, participants receive year-round support from staff and have the opportunity to remain in the program for four to five years. Students (Climbers) are recruited from across Virginia; however, 50% reside in nearby rural counties.
The first rung for a Jacob’s Ladder Climber is participating in a 4-week residential, summer enrichment camp, which was held July 8-August 3 at Christchurch School. Each week is filled with academic classes, outdoor activities, clubs, music and art, group time and devotions.
“All our learning is wrapped around faith,” said Max Maine, a former Climber. The program motto is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.”
Max added, “I grew up in foster care; you find acceptance here. Initially, I didn’t want to come. I thought it was a waste of my summer. But, by the end of camp, I didn’t want to leave. Jacob’s Ladder has given me the tools to be independent, to strive for a goal and the drive to succeed.”
“Jacob’s Ladder is a life-changing experience,” said Bonca Schaffer, who became a Climber as a 5th-grader. “My parents came here from Hungary. My mother is a strong woman but my father was an abusive alcoholic. My older brother is schizophrenic due in part to our chaotic home life. My school counselor told me about Jacob ’s Ladder. Since early on, I have wanted to succeed, to make my family proud. Jacob’s Ladder has given me strength, self-confidence and helped me direct my goals,” said Bonca.
Susan Albaugh, Jacob’s Ladder Executive Director, said, “Because of their academic achievement, many Climbers receive scholarships to prestigious high schools such as Chatham Hall and Woodberry Forest, and 94% of Climbers enter college. Max has enlisted in the United States Marne Corps and is an undergraduate student at James Madison University pursuing a degree in chemical engineering.”
“My interest in studying international relations at the University of Southern California was sparked at Chatham Hall. I would not have gone to Chatham Hall without Jacob’s Ladder,” added Bonca.
The River Counties Community Foundation grant supports three Jacob’s Ladder students from either Lancaster, Northumberland or Middlesex counties. “Connecting philanthropic donors with programs that provide an exciting learning environment and prepare them to be successful makes our community and our future stronger. River Counties invites anyone interested in supporting our grants program to call 436-1600. Together, we do more good,” said Leslie Franklin, Regional Grants Management Officer.
Executive Director, Jacob’s Ladder
Grants Administrator, Jacob’s Ladder