Rondout Valley leads the way - BlueStone Press
March 19, 2019
Our Schools

Rondout Valley leads the way

SUNY Ulster's President's Challenge: 35 Ulster County students to get free tuition


“I am really going to college!” This was the response from one Rondout Valley student when she was awarded the SUNY Ulster President’s Challenge Scholarship as an eighth grader. The program has grown from six students in its pilot year at Rondout in 2016 to 35 students across seven of the nine schools districts in Ulster County.

Thanks to the generosity of community members, this program takes affordability out of the equation for students who meet the criteria: be first-generation college-bound students; have an 80 percent cumulative grade point average; have a 75 percent cumulative grade point average in English, math, science and social studies through mid-April; have an 85 percent or higher attendance rate in school; and have minimal disciplinary infractions. Preference is also given to students with economic need.

Lorraine Salmon, executive director of the SUNY Ulster Foundation, said the scholarship program is a great opportunity.

It starts with an application process that includes an essay and interview and ends with not only free tuition but also mentorship throughout high school. The students also have opportunities to meet with their sponsors and attend events on campus. So long as the students continue to do well and graduate from high school, they will have their first two years of college at SUNY Ulster paid for through donations from sponsors in the community, Salmon said. She said she and SUNY Ulster President Dr. Alan Roberts meet with eligible students beforehand to talk to them about the benefits of attending the college. Students who apply but are not chosen for the program are designated as President’s Challenge participants, meaning they are given priority for scholarship assistance through the foundation if they apply for scholarships at SUNY Ulster.

Recently, Rondout students attended a PASS event, which stands for Parents, Administrators, Students and Sponsors, at the Rondout Valley Central School District office where students and sponsors had a chance to interact and get to know each other. They also spent a morning on campus attending classes, getting student IDs, touring the library and having lunch with Roberts and Salmon. Rondout Valley Superintendent Rosario Agostaro said the students are all doing well. He said they seem to walk with purpose now and their parents have been thankful. Agostaro added that the program, in his opinion, is one of the most impactful ones he has seen during his career. “It gives them hope and something to dream about, which is being able to go to college,” he said. “I’m thankful to President Roberts and his team because this is going to change lives.” Agostaro said he was also thankful to the donors for their support.

For more information, contact Salmon at the SUNY Ulster Foundation at 687-5283 or visit


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