“Education is the key to making a difference,” said Phatana Ith, a 1999 recipient of two Dollars for Scholars scholarships. “It opens doors, broadens horizons, and has always been important in my family. My mother was a teacher, my father was the superintendent, a prominent political figure and a writer, and my siblings have graduated from college or pursued postsecondary education.”


Ith’s family immigrated to America in 1982. She was born in Bangkok and is the youngest of eight children. Phatana graduated from high school in Santa Ana, CA; there ,her community service paid tribute to her older sister, Socheat, who was killed in a car accident in May, 1998. “For 18 months, she devoted her service to the community on a full-time basis and knew happiness,” Ith said of her sister. “I spend just a few hours a week serving others and know the same selfless joy.”


“Dollars for Scholars is a great organization because it is active and involved in communities everywhere," she said. "It has given me extra motivation to be successful.”





As a widowed single mother of two college-age children, Mary Williamson may not seem like a likely candidate for a scholarship. Thanks to the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, Mary was able, even after a tremendous family tragedy, to return to school and begin turning her life in a new direction.


John Williamson, Mary’s husband, was a Manhattan fire chief who joined the hundreds of emergency responders who gave their lives in the World Trade Center rescue efforts on September 11, 2001. He left behind not only Mary, but a son and a daughter.


After John’s death, Mary took time off to cope and to care for her two children, eventually leaving the pharmaceutical company that she had owned and operated for many years. Until recently, home was where Mary spent her time, unless she was volunteering in the community. She found herself needing to get back into working life, and realized that her passion for food was the way to do so.


That’s why the French Culinary Institute in New York was just the place she needed to be. Mary’s education at the Institute, made possible by the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, is nearly finished, and she plans to continue following her dreams by moving into either food writing or a personal-chef career. Thanks to the Fund, Mary has been able to pursue her dreams while also ensuring a college education for both her children— before her daughter’s graduation, all three Williamsons were in college at the same time. Today, all three are equipped to move past the tragedy of 9/11 to a future full of possibility.




One thing William K. Reilly learned early in his life was that support from the community can play a key role in a young person’s development and life’s direction.


Reilly, who is a graduate of B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, MA – where he was one of the first 24 recipients of a Dollars for Scholars scholarship in 1958 – has made service to others a hallmark of his distinguished career as a policymaker and environmental leader. It is a career that has included presidencies of The Conservation Foundation, The World Wildlife Fund and Aqua International Partners, and a stint as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in George H.W. Bush’s cabinet.


But more importantly, it has been a career that has focused on the fight for cleaner air and purer water. Along the way, Reilly has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to aid in the effort, helping millions of people from around the world overcome air, land, and water problems and live longer, healthier lives.


“I loved Fall River,” Reilly said. “It was a diverse community and a great place to grow up and be educated – a ‘real’ community in every sense of the word. And the Dollars for Scholars scholarship I received was a terrific expression of support from a community that had adopted me and my family when we moved there to live with my father’s sister at a time when she was seriously ill. I’ve never forgotten that support.”



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