Published in the Santa Barbara News-Press
As 2022 drew to a close, Tim and Ginny Bliss issued a challenge to Mission Scholars and the Santa Barbara community: Raise $75,000 from other sources, and the Bliss Family Foundation would match it dollar for dollar.
It was reminiscent of the Bliss family’s matching grant challenge from the previous year: a $50,000 matching grant that raised $172,000 for Mission Scholars, a program that helps level the college-admissions playing field for high-achieving, low-income students in the Santa Barbara area.
This year, however, they upped the stakes. Donors in the local community accepted the Bliss family’s new challenge wholeheartedly, donating a total of $190,000 for a combined total of $265,000.
“We are honored and proud to be part of Mission Scholars,” said Tim Bliss. “They are making such a tremendous difference in these young people’s lives.”
These matching grants have a significant impact, according to Cassie Lancaster, Mission Scholars’ executive director.
“This support allows us to grow,” she said. “Our first cohort in 2019 had only 10 students. We recently accepted our fifth cohort, and it will have 30 students. Not only that, but we’ll be in a position to continue expanding into Carpinteria, strengthen our community outreach services and continue supporting our college students through our College Success programs.”
Mission Scholars already has an impressive track record, with a near-perfect record of four-year college attendance and — particularly critical for low-income families — a record of garnering scholarships for their students that cover 85% of the cost of attendance.
The program also has an array of partnerships with local and national corporations, which leads to summer internships and professional development opportunities.
According to Ms. Lancaster, Mission Scholars students are currently lining up paid summer internships with General Motors, Electronic Arts, Khan Academy, The Salvation Army and others.
“That’s a perfect example of the impact this sort of generosity can have,” Ms. Lancaster said. “The Bliss family’s investments have allowed our staff to dedicate more time and resources to helping our scholars find summer jobs and internships, and that increased capacity will be around for our scholars’ entire careers.
“It all starts with people like Tim and Ginny and with the Santa Barbara community as a whole. The assistance we provide can have an extraordinary, multi-generational ripple effect, but those ripples have to start somewhere.”