By: Jen Russon
For some college-bound teens, furnishing a dorm room is simply out of reach, costing an average of $836 for the basics.
Now, thanks to the generosity and smart thinking of a high school advisor and Coral Springs teacher, kids who otherwise couldn’t have afforded to move into a dorm can do so with style.
Jamie Raff is a sixth-grade teacher and math department chair at Ramblewood Middle School. Her mother, Meryl Raff, is a BRACE Advisor at Flanagan High School and a Tamarac resident.
The pair noticed the financial hardship lower-income high school graduates experienced and wanted to do something about it.
“It bothered Jamie and me to think simple things like bedsheets and lamps — things we take for granted — were so unaffordable it meant they couldn’t live on campus,” said Meryl.
To help, the Raffs created the Destination Dorm Scholarship program, giving high-achieving students in need the chance to live more comfortably.
No high school in Broward County is excluded from the program, which purchases items for its dorm boxes from registries at Target, Walmart, and Amazon.
“For about $275 per student, we customize a dorm box with items like drawers, hamper, towels, shower supplies, and bedding,” said Jamie. “It feels good to give them a fresh start.”
Jamie said her mother personally knows high school seniors who benefited from their nonprofit, but she hasn’t had the honor yet herself.
“Two years ago, when we first knocked on doors looking for sponsorship, a lot of doors closed in our face,” said Jamie.
Meryl added that many applicants to their program are on a Pell Grant, leaving little budget for creature comforts.
Yet, the Raffs said all people saw were kids who could afford college, so they didn’t think these high school seniors needed their help.
Meryl said the perception changed when The Jason Taylor Foundation, and then Broward County Schools, got behind them.
“The Jason Taylor Foundation helped us brand our name and gave us direction to start the program. Now, The Broward Education Foundation, a tremendous scholarship program, is involved,” said Meryl.
Meryl said one of her favorite former students, Jessica Daniel, has already benefited.
“The program helped me out tremendously. As a first-generation college student, it gave me the financial support I needed,” said Daniels.
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- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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