Capelluto fund aids Elis

Today, the first 30 checks from the Alexander Capelluto Foundation Promise Fund are en route to scholarship recipients, who will soon be able to use this money to expand their academic options and lighten their financial burdens.

The Foundation was begun after the death of Alex Capelluto ’08 in a bicycle accident in West Haven, Conn., during the summer of 2006. Its goal is to honor Capelluto’s memory by enriching the academic experiences of students at his two alma maters — Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N.Y., and Yale, with an eye to expanding to other institutions, starting with Amherst College.

The Promise Fund aims to provide Elis on financial aid with money for academic materials that their aid packages do not cover, such as textbooks, supplies, computers and musical instruments. Grants of up to $500 are being given to all eligible applicants from the class of 2010 over the course of the year, and members of the Capelluto family said they expect other classes will also be eligible in future years. At Horace Mann, the Alexander Capelluto Award encourages high school juniors to engage in their communities by granting $2,500 to implement innovative service project ideas.

Capelluto’s parents and older sister worked with the Yale College Dean’s Office and the financial aid office to design the Fund and determine the requirements for scholarship eligibility. Since sophomores receiving financial aid were contacted on Sept. 14, the Foundation has received more than 55 applications, said Capelluto’s father Jacques. The scholarship’s turnaround time is short in order to ensure that students can buy necessary supplies as soon as possible, he said.

“The idea is to help students who might want to take a course that they wouldn’t otherwise take, so we need to respond pretty fast as to whether we will help them or not,” said Jacques Capelluto, who said the Foundation will provide funds to around 80 students in the first round of disbursement. “If we took three weeks to do it, the course would already be halfway done.”

Alex’s sister Katherine Capelluto ’04 said helping students explore classes that they would otherwise not have been able take — such as photography, which necessitates the purchase of a camera and other materials — is exactly what her brother would have wanted the family to do.

“My brother was passionate about Yale and enjoyed his time there so much, so it was an obvious place to start,” Katherine Capelluto said. “It was the least we could do in his honor to continue to have a presence at Yale.”

The Foundation will accept applications throughout the academic year to provide for midterm and spring semester expenses, Katherine Capelluto said. The Capellutos encourage recipients to send them a product of their studies, such as a piece of artwork or an English paper, so that they can engage more personally with the students.

In order to be eligible for the grant, students must fall into a certain financial aid category and submit an application listing the classes they wish to take — for which they must receive a grade — and the supplies they wish to purchase. Instead of reimbursing students for purchases, the Fund will send them a check and ask for receipts in return.

The Fund is limited to sophomores for now in order to test the scholarships on a small population and because sophomores should explore new classes in order to help them choose a major, Jacques Capelluto said. He said it is likely that the Fund will be able to support more students as organizers look to larger foundations and corporations for additional funding.

“As far as we’re concerned, the more people we can help, the better off we all are,” he said.

Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said the Promise Fund fills a need that is not covered by financial aid packages. If a student came to the Financial Office requesting money for an expense like art supplies, the University would provide a loan or increase the self-help portion of the student’s budget, which is earned through work-study, he said.

Storlazzi said Yale has not yet considered using University funds to cover smaller, individualized expenses, although there are funds to provide for students’ travel to and from school.

“Yale does not have a scholarship program for prospective photography majors to buy a camera, for example, just as we don’t have a scholarship program for buying laptops,” he said. “That’s not to say that we shouldn’t or shouldn’t ever consider that.”

Troy Schuler ’09, a member of the Undergraduate Organizing Committee, said he applauds the Capellutos for identifying an important student need and providing Yale administrators with food for thought when considering financial aid reform.

“Hopefully, this will show that this is something that students really care about, and the University will listen and make it a priority to develop better financial aid policies,” he said.

Katherine Capelluto emphasized that her brother — who was hit by a truck while training for the Habitat for Humanity Bike Challenge — lived his life always thinking of others. The Foundation exists to perpetuate Alex’s mission, she said.

“It’s inspired by him and his passion for life and helping other people,” she said.

During his time at Yale, Alex Capelluto was a member of the varsity lightweight crew team, a leader of Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trips and an organizer of relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina victims.

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