Closing the gap

Art for Aid brings Marlboro students, faculty, and community together to deal with financial aid crisis

BRATTLEBORO — In those old musicals from MGM, when Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland found out that their neighbors and friends were in financial need, they took matter into their own hands, gathering all the town's kids together to raise the money on their own by putting on a show.

That's exactly the spirit that students at Marlboro College will be showing this weekend when they present their fundraising event, “Art for Aid,” at the Robert A. Gibson River Garden on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

First and foremost, the Marlboro College Financial Aid Task Force is presenting Art for Aid to celebrate the release of a new CD of Marlboro students' work, “Music from the Hill.”

Claire Trail, who is organizing publicity for the event, says that Marlboro has an incredible array of musical talent among its students.

The music on the CD runs the gamut of styles from folk, blues, bluegrass, as well as techno, and some classical. The musicians include Jude Bower, Emma Thacker, Cordelia, Esperanza Friel, Mia Bertelli, Willson Gaul and Ellie Roark, Sophie Tulip and Liana Nuse, Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass, Christina Schneider, Felix Jarrar, Amber Claxton, Haley Peters, and Noah Woods.

The CD will be for sale by donation.

The Art for Aid evening will feature live music by local musicians, including the renowned MacArthur Family Band, as well as students from Marlboro College.

There will also be a raffle and a silent art auction of Marlboro student work, with special contributions from several of Marlboro College faculty, including pieces from John Willis, Felicity Ratte, Tobias Gelston, and William Edelglass.

All proceeds will be used for financial aid at Marlboro College.

Casey Chalbeck, one of the eight students organizing the event, came up with the idea of creating a fund to aid students at Marlboro College who find themselves unable to pay for school. She said she faced the same problem last semester.

“I ran into a financial cliff,” she admits.

Neither she or her family had the means to pay for her school, and if it had not been a friend of her family who came to the rescue with “social capital,” she said she does not know what her education future would have been without that help.

“It was a wake-up call for me,” Chalbeck continues. “I did not realize how precarious my existence could be.”

“Marlboro College may be a 'needs-blind institution' that accepts students regardless of their ability to pay, and one that strives for economic and social diversity,” Chalbeck says. “Nonetheless, many students find themselves having to leave school for financial reasons. This is a real area of concern, and the Marlboro College Financial Aid Task Force is here to help find a workable solution.”

Casey actually came up with the idea for the Marlboro College Financial Aid Task Force far from the tranquil environment of the Marlboro campus. She said inspiration struck while she was riding on a bus in China, one of 10 Marlboro College students and eight professors there to analyze energy relations between China and the United States.

She found this international adventure to be an amazing experience, but even here the financial problems facing Marlboro students back home occupied her thoughts. She began describing the problem to Ken Schneck, Marlboro dean of students, who was sitting next to her on the bus, and he suggested that she come up with a student group to organize fundraisers for those in need.

Chalbeck was excited about the idea, and when she returned she gathered together eight interested students who then went to “the people in the know” at Marlboro to see if the project was legally feasible. Ultimately, the college gave its support to this endeavor.

“Although Art for Aid is a completely student-run event, we have had a lot of support from Marlboro College faculty and staff, especially Ken Schneck,” says Claire Trail, who has faced her own hardships in continuing at Marlboro. “He explained to us how an event like Art for Aid should be run, and was great with creative feedback.”

Art for Aids is the Marlboro College Financial Aid Task Force's first special event. Casey sees it more than an occasion to raise money.

“The event is a showcase for student and faculty,” she says. She feels it is a chance for “the whole community to come together to see who we are” at the school on the hill.

She also envisions it as an occasion to address an issue that the entire nation is facing. The ability to pay for college and its subsequent student debt is a problem for people from all parts of the country, and not only in elite private schools.

“There is frustration among students on this very real concern,” she continues. “We as students consider ourselves a very politically aware group, so I was disappointed how little any of the political campaigns this year broached the subject of student debt. I think it was briefly mentioned in one presidential debate, but it certainly was not in the forefront of political concern. We hope that what we are doing at the Marlboro College Financial Aid Task Force is the beginning of a response to this inertia.”

As the task force is new to the world of development, it is uncertain what the future holds, but its goal is to raise around $50,000 by the end of this academic year, and hopefully get a matching grant. All money raised will be handed over to Marlboro College Financial Aid Department.

How the money will be distributed among students remains unclear.

“There are federal requirement how donations and discretionary funds are used,” says Casey. “We are unsure if we will give the majority of the funds to those most in need, or smaller amounts to a larger pool of applicants. The policy stuff we will tackle in the spring. Right now, we are just trying to raise the capital to make any of this happen.”

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates