Nearly $1 Million Donation Helps Disadvantaged Portsmouth Students Achieve College Dreams
PORTSMOUTH — More than $900,000 has been donated to one of Portsmouth’s well-known nonprofit organizations, which will be used to help disadvantaged Portsmouth High School students prepare for and attend college.
Futures is a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing mentoring, encouragement, and financial assistance to about 25-30 high school students per year. Often times these students are potential first-generation college students.
Within the last year, the nonprofit received a record total donation amount that will directly benefit Portsmouth students.
Superintendent Stephen Zadravec made the announcement along with expressing his gratitude.
"This is, by far, the largest amount of money that has been donated to the program in a single year, since its inception in the mid-1980s," Zadravec said. "These generous donations will be used to help our students along their path toward getting accepted into college and assist with certain expenses once they do. Attending college isn't cheap, and for decades Futures has been there to help Portsmouth High students take that next step."
Yianna Rhodes, a senior animal science major at the University of New Hampshire, has been with the Futures program for eight years now.
“My mom came to this area from Athens, Greece, with a high school degree and the only thing she had ever wanted was for me to go to college,” Rhodes said.
After applying her eighth-grade year, Futures gave Rhodes class guidance, help with college applications/testing, and even life advice. Rhodes was thrilled to hear about the record donations because of the constant support she received through this nonprofit.
“Because of this program and a good amount of hard work, I will be graduating debt-free this spring after four years,” Rhodes said. “To put into words everything that this program has given me is almost impossible. They offer education and guidance to kids who would never have these types of opportunities otherwise. In a way, to me, they are the unsung heroes of the Portsmouth school district.”
After graduation in the spring, Rhodes is hoping to continue her education further with a master’s degree, and she is excited to give back to the program as a donor herself one day.
Futures was founded by a local philanthropist, the late Joseph Sawtelle, to help students who show the ability, desire, and motivation to attend college, but lack the necessary resources.
Futures Program Coordinator Amy Brnger was overjoyed about the three large donations, and talked of Sawtelle’s admirable character.
“Joe had the power to get other people to give and believe in something,” Brnger said.
Over $700,000 was donated from Sawtelle’s estate over the summer, helping his legacy since his death in 2000. The estate does not donate every year, so this donation came as a surprise to Futures.
Portsmouth natives Claire Rangnow and Dr. Peter Beck also made significant donations earlier in the year. These unexpected gifts serve as a reflection of how much work Futures does for the Portsmouth community.
Brnger said the $900,000 will go a long way by expanding the program’s budget for many years to come.
“It is wonderful and strangely coincidental to see such a large planned gift from Joe’s estate show up this year,” Zadravec said.
Zadravec said the donation will help the Futures program close opportunity gaps for graduating students.
"To be left this amount of money by three donors in such large amounts, was really thrilling to see. We at Futures have been contemplating doing more active fundraising,” Brnger said. “These generous gifts may be the springboard that we need to accomplish that, so we can continue to reach more students and award more money annually."
Students eligible for assistance are guided by Brnger in a wide range of areas, including considering careers and majors, studying for PSATs and SATs, selecting colleges, completing applications, and filling out financial aid forms.
Tuition assistance is awarded annually and is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Applications for eighth-grade students will begin in January. Once accepted, students receive support from the program all throughout high school and college. For more information about Futures, how to give, and how to apply, please visit their website here.