By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 30, 2014
ATLANTA—Grace Obiofuma was among 15 Grace Scholar students who graduated from Atlanta archdiocesan high schools in May.
A standout student and campus leader, she was the salutatorian in her class at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta and now attends Princeton University.
Obiofuma, 18, who aspires to a career in medicine, said the financial support from Grace Scholars freed her from worrying about the financial burden faced by her parents for her education.
“I could focus on trying my best and reaching my full academic potential,” she said, speaking on her way to class at the New Jersey campus of Princeton. She has received financial aid from Princeton to continue her studies.
The accomplishments of past Grace Scholars inspire a passion for the scholarships to continue and for more students to be helped.
Leaders at Grace Scholars are now working intensely to line up donors for January 2015 when Georgians can apply for the education tax credits that fund Grace and other student scholarship organizations. The window to apply is open only briefly due to popular demand. In fact, the opportunity to apply may only be available for less than a week in January.
Currently, 555 students are attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta as Grace Scholars, helped by the education tax credit. That is an increase from the 2013-2014 number of 444 Grace Scholars. The average scholarship amount is $2,759 a year, according to coordinator Sherri Dahlheim.
Schools with the highest number of Grace Scholars include Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville, with 59; Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, with 44; Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, Atlanta, with 38; St. John Neumann Regional School, a Lilburn elementary school, with 53; and St. Joseph School, Marietta, also an elementary school, with 40.
All scholars receive multi-year awards through their graduation from their current Grace school as long as they remain eligible students.
Grace Scholars is one of 28 scholarship organizations operating under the Georgia Private School Tax Credit law. It allows eligible citizens and corporations to receive tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations. Georgians can obtain a total of $58 million a year in state income tax credits for donating to scholarship organizations.
Grace Scholars is a partnership between the Diocese of Savannah and the Archdiocese of Atlanta. It provides tuition assistance to students with demonstrated financial need who wish to attend Georgia Catholic schools that participate in Grace. Students must be entering Catholic schools to apply for Grace, either because they are starting school for the first time or are transferring into a Catholic school.
People are encouraged to support Grace by applying for the 2015 tax credit. As of Sept. 29, there were some 1,620 pre-registrations with Grace Scholars totaling over $3.8 million in tax credits, said David Brown, the executive director of the program. Participants are from 65 of the parishes and missions in the archdiocese. Last year, 1,039 donors contributed to the program. Many others who wanted to contribute didn’t make the deadline as other Georgians applied for the tax credit and the annual statewide cap was met.
This year Brown anticipates the cap will be met statewide in early January.
Brown noted that the program has been revised this year to make it quicker for donors to apply. An online form is available on the Grace Scholars’ website and should take less than five minutes to complete, he said.
Obiofuma attended public schools in Gwinnett County up to high school. She was attracted to the Catholic high school because of its reputation for friendliness and the support faculty gives to students.
“My expectations were exceeded. The community really did embrace me,” she said.
Obiofuma was a leader on campus. She served as a student ambassador. She played clarinet in two campus bands. She also was the president of an environmental club. Obiofuma’s older brother and sister also attended St. Pius X High School, with the help of financial aid. She is the daughter of Maureen and Chudi Obiofuma. The family attends St. Lawrence Church, in Lawrenceville.
Obiofuma said Grace donors should know they are investing in the future.
“Thank you for the opportunity to pursue my academics,” she said.
For more information on the scholarship program and for information on how to apply now for the tax credit for 2015, visit www.gracescholars.org.