Joe and Judy Gappa of Santa Rosa have created the Yes, We Can! scholarship fund at Sonoma State University to help low-income students from the North Bay fund their college expenses.
In a unique move, the Gappas hope the fund will attract a large community of enthusiastic supporters and donors who want to help these students manage the increasing costs of a four-year college education.
The Gappas have made an original donation of two yearly scholarships. These scholarships would be continued annually for four years as long as the recipients make satisfactory progress towards their degrees.
The scholarships will be integrated with available federal Pell and state Cal Grants, thus reducing or eliminating the need for recipients to accumulate excessive loan burdens or be employed to an extent that jeopardizes their academic performance and retention.
The heart of the program is to help young people with academic potential develop it through a university education.
"We can think of no better way to ensure a bright future for the region than to help its youth achieve university degrees that prepare them for careers and community leadership locally," say the couple.
"Just as we both have benefited greatly from our educations, we believe that others can also, " say the Gappas. "Unfortunately, many of the students with great academic potential do not have the opportunity to take advantage of it. Their loss is the community's loss."
Joe and Judy Gappa are no strangers to the world of higher education, having pursued several advanced degrees themselves. Judy was a university administrator and professor for many years. After a long career in the military, Joe became a professor of Management and Engineering Economics at San Francisco State University.
"College-aged students who need this help are often the offspring of those who could never have done it on their own, due to language hurdles and economic hardship. They just need someone to help," the couple feels. They are confident successful graduates will give back to the region for many years. "It's a solid investment in our community's future," they say.
The Gappas originally became interested in supporting SSU through a gift to the Green Music Center.
Those interested in supporting the Yes We Can! program by underwriting the education of a deserving student should contact Matt Benney in University Support & Preparation Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (707) 664-2006.
ABOVE, Joe and Judy Gappa with their dog Hilda.