Great Neck Student Aid Fund continues quest to help graduating students

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The Great Neck Student Aid Fund and its board of directors, pictured here at Great Neck House, seek to help graduating students pursue college or vocational school. (Photo courtesy of Elise Kestenbaum)
The Great Neck Student Aid Fund and its board of directors, pictured here at Great Neck House, seek to help graduating students pursue college or vocational school. (Photo courtesy of Elise Kestenbaum)

When Michael Weinstock was growing up in Great Neck, he said he dealt with an alcoholic mother, an absent father, and even temporary homelessness.

But now Weinstock, a Kings Point resident and Great Neck North High School alum, is working as a lawyer in his Great Neck Plaza practice – something he said would not have been possible without a little help from the Great Neck Student Aid Fund.

“They not only gave me money for my first year in school – and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without it – but one of the directors even met with privately and he helped me fill out the financial aid form because my mother refused to help me and refused to sign the form,” Weinstock said.

Weinstock is one of the hundreds of people the Great Neck-based non-profit Student Aid Fund has sought to help since its founding in 1931, providing funds to Great Neck school district residents to support their first year in college so they can pursue a higher education.

Elise Kestenbaum, the president of the Great Neck Student Aid Fund, said that while many see Great Neck as affluent, there are also many families in “serious situations.”

“Even though some people think that in our community kids don’t have a need, there are many families that live below the poverty line,” Kestenbaum said. “There are many families that have free lunch and there are many students that wouldn’t be able to go to college if we didn’t provide them a scholarship.”

Candy Gould, who has been involved for over 30 years, said that in recent years the organization has had to do more fundraising, in part because of rising education costs.

The organization’s goal, however, has remained the same.

“Even though we only help them with that first year, we hope that that gives them enough of a leg up,” Gould, currently one of the group’s vice presidents, said in a separate interview. “You feel like you’re helping in a big way.”

But, Gould and Kestenbaum both said, many people in the community still do not know about the Great Neck Student Aid Fund.

Jill Monoson, a vice president of the Student Aid Fund, said that because of this, the organization plans to host its first annual Fun Walk for Education on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 10 a.m.

“The whole idea behind it is to raise money and to raise awareness,” Monoson, who is helping spearhead the walk, said, “because we feel not enough people in the Great Neck community are aware that there are so many children in need of money to go to college.”

“There’s so many people in town who don’t even know we exist,” Monoson added. “We’ve been around for 87 years.”

The one mile walk begins and ends at Great Neck Plaza Village Hall, located at 2 Gussack Plaza. Registration, which can be done online, via mail, or on site, costs $20 per adult, $10 for students under 18 years old, and is free for children in strollers.

Any business or individual that donates $250 or more will get a sign with their name along the route.

As for Weinstock, he said he continues to give back to the organization that helped him.

“I help out as much as I can,” Weinstock said.

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