Frequently Asked Questions


How are students selected?

Candidates are identified at the end of their freshman year of high school. They must be enrolled in Albany, Schenectady or Troy’s public high school to be considered for the program. All of our students are eligible for the Federal Free or Reduced lunch list, have a B average overall, and show leadership potential and academic promise. Many of our Scholars are the first in their families to attend college. Students must receive a recommendation from a guidance counselor, and at least one teacher who will vouch for the student’s ability, motivation and leadership potential. Students are interviewed by the Academic Coordinator in their school and by the senior staff of the organization. Based on the interview and the application, students are selected and then inducted into the program as Sophomores.

I’m interested in getting involved, or having my child take part. What do I do?

First, be sure that your student meets the above requirements: they must be enrolled in one of the three schools where we work (Albany, Schenectady or Troy public high schools) and they must demonstrate both financial need and academic promise as ninth grade students. If so, contact our Executive Director, Laura Marx ( or 518-935-1048), for more information about securing an application for your child.

How many students do you serve?

We have 203 active Scholars in the program. There are 115 college Scholars and 88 high school students in the program. We also support 280 college graduates with networking opportunities and other services.

How many mentors are in your program?

We have 118 mentors currently matched with students in our program.

How does the program work for students?

Students are required to attend weekly homework sessions and to take an academically rigorous course load (Sponsor-A-Scholar covers the cost of AP or University-in-the-High School classes). As part of the program, students are matched with mentors, who support them throughout high school and into college. Students also have the opportunity to take part in college visits, career exploration programs and cultural enrichment opportunities. Once in college, students are eligible to receive a stipend of up to $750 for each semester of coursework that they successfully complete.

How does the program work for sponsors?

Sponsors commit to make a $10,000 investment in one Scholar’s future. The donation can be made in one lump sum or over a period of four or five years. We devote $4,000 to cover some of the costs of tutoring, AP course fees, SAT fees, SAT prep, and other programmatic expenses while the students are in high school. The remaining $6,000 is held in trust for the student’s stipend, generally distributed to students $750 at a time as they complete each successful semester of college.

Sponsors can choose to meet their students at events throughout the year, or they may remain benevolent and anonymous. Sponsor-A-Scholar shares regular updates with sponsors throughout the academic year to highlight student achievements and share progress.

Sponsorships can be given by individuals, families, groups of friends, civic organizations, foundations or corporations.  

How do the stipends work?

We secure sponsorships of $10,000 for each student in our program. $6,000 of that investment is used for the student’s stipend, which is paid out in increments of $750 for every successful semester the Scholar completes.

Students share their transcripts in bi-annual meetings with our College Success Manager, and receive their stipend at the end of the semester. Stipends can be used by students in whatever way they deem necessary. In the past, students have used the funds for books, transportation, student fees and other key expenses.

What is the expectation of students in the program?

Students are expected to maintain a B overall in high school. They are encouraged to cultivate leadership skills and a commitment to the community through extracurricular activities, part-time work and volunteering.

Where do you get your funding?

We rely on the generous support from individuals, foundations and corporate partners to fund many of the college preparatory activities that we offer our students. Our primary funding is from individual donors. We also get support from local businesses, corporations, and foundations.

What kind of support do you offer your students?

In High School: Our high school programming is geared toward preparing our Scholars for college from tenth grade through their high school graduation. Our programs include: peer support networks; workshops on essay writing, interview skills and financial aid awareness; college visits and community service projects. We provide weekly tutoring and personalized academic support for each of our Scholars. We help our Scholars research colleges, majors and potential career paths by connecting them with current Sponsor-A-Scholar students who are in college, or who have recently graduated. We also provide career exploration experiences and job shadowing opportunities for our colleges through a host of local community partners. In addition to school-centered resources, we also provide mentors, who have graduated from college, as an additional layer of support and guidance for our Scholars.

In College: Our college programming ensures that our college Scholars are aware of the available resources found on campus. Our College Success Manager meets in-person regularly with students who are enrolled at local colleges, and is available by Skype or text to students at colleges outside of the immediate area. We offer students support with study skills, financial aid awareness, internships and other concerns throughout their college careers. Scholars are also supported by their mentors through their first year of college. Whenever possible, we connect current Sponsor-A-Scholar college students with one another or with recent graduates from that institution. In addition to helping to connect our college Scholars to each other in school, we also offer opportunities for them to collect their stipends and connect with one another at our Holiday Homecoming (winter) and Scholar Celebration(spring).

What do mentors do?

Mentors meet with their students at least once a month. Often, they chat with mentees by text or phone more regularly. They act as a resource for their mentee and the mentee’s family during the college search process, often taking students on college visits, and assisting with college readiness. They act as sounding boards for students as they navigate high school and college, encouraging the students to challenge themselves academically, extend themselves socially, and become involved in their communities.

Who can become a mentor?

Any adult who holds at least an associate's degree, is able to meet with a student once per month in person, has their own transportation, and will make a commitment to their student through, at least, the Scholar's freshman year of college. Mentors must be willing to attend training, submit to a criminal background check, share three personal background checks and take part in an in-person interview with our staff.

How do you support mentors?

First, we set clear expectations on both sides. Mentors take part in an initial training prior to being matched with a student. We then offer training for mentors at least twice a year and we work with volunteer mentor coordinators in each of the three schools who work with staff to individually support mentors and organize events throughout the year.

Mentor/mentee events include cultural events, educational events, community service projects, and social events.

How are students and mentors matched?

We have an application for mentors to fill out that identifies their background and interests, and each prospective mentor must pass a criminal background check and share three character references. Mentors also take part in an in-person interview, so we can adequately match them with the Scholar who they would be best suited to help. We match mentors and mentees based on the mentees’ and mentors’ shared interests. We always match Scholars and mentors based on gender.

Have another question not answered here? Drop us a line! Email Marcy Stengel, Director of Development and Communications at