Montclair Magazine Holiday 2020 - Page 8

neighbors
Submit your ideas for neighbors to handler @ northjersey . com

10 THINGS YOUSHOULD KNOWABOUT

Jean O ’ Toole

Co-founder of Connections101 helps students win scholarships WRITTEN BY SARAH SLAVIN AND CINDY SCHWEICH HANDLER

Jean O ’ Toole relates easily

to the financial concerns of families with kids seeking higher education . The first in her family to go college , O ’ Toole , who is originally from western Massachusetts , received many generous scholarships , but still couldn ’ tcover her expenses and had to take out student loans .
Her post-graduation work at Monster . com subsidiary Making it Count , where she spoke to high school and university students nationwide about academic strategies , taught her that education costs were increasingly stressing families out .
“ I started opening my eyes to opportunities Iwish Ihad known about ,” she says .
O ’ Toole started workshopping a classroom presentation in New Jersey high schools that evolved into aschool assembly program . Through assemblies , scholarship clubs , library visits and seminars , Connections101 , the company she co-founded in 2008 , has instructed thousands of students and parents in the tri-state area tofind and win private scholarships — ones given by corporations , foundations , individuals and other organizations .
O ’ Toole , who lives in Oak Ridge , has worked with students at Bloomfield and Cedar Grove High Schools , and held virtual seminars for the Montclair and Bloomfield public libraries . Since its arrival , Connection101 has been working with students online .
Here are 10 things you should know about Jean O ’ Toole .
THERE ARE A LOT OF MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WHO ’ S ENTITLED TO SCHOLARSHIPS , SHE SAYS
Families often assume that scholarships are only for students with top grades , major athletic accomplishments and / or deep financial needs , she says , but they ’ re wrong . “ There are a lot of private scholarships where the only criterion is you ’ re a student who ’ s on track to graduate ,” says O ’ Toole .
O ’ TOOLE SAYS THATSOME SCHOLARSHIPS ARE FOR KIDS AS YOUNG AS 5
Because scholarships are intended for educational purposes , younger students may also apply for them , and they are awarded in two ways , she says . For scholarships of less than $ 1,000 , a check is sent to the family ; parents may want to invest the money in an educational summer program for the child , or invest it for future education . Larger awards , such as the $ 1,000 Angela Award for female students in grades 5-8 who have an interest in science , may comeinthe form of abond students can use when they turn 18 .
O ’ Toole has plenty of examples of gifts aimed at younger recipients . “ Google has a scholarship open to kids inK-12 , with several categories so the little kids aren ’ t competing against the older ones ,” she says . The Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship , which is for kids 13 and older , has adeadline of Halloween and asks students to write ashort essay about what they would do in the case of azombie takeover .
THINK LOCAL , SHE ADVISES PARENTS
Students have a higher statistical chance of scoring local scholarships because there are fewer students competing for them , she says . “ A majority , probably 98 percent , of U . S . high schools have their own version of Senior Awards Night ,” she says . “ You can ask your guidance department to email you the program from the year before , soyou can see the scholarships that are being given away in your community , who won last year and why , and who decides ,” she says .
COURTESY OF CONNECTIONS 101
6 HOLIDAY 2020 MONTCLAIR MAGAZINE