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Cutbacks on Volunteer Trips Fatally Weaken College Resumés

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Recent cuts to service trips for Jewish teens may devastate one of the core missions of the Jewish organizational world — getting Jewish students into the best universities. Now, a variety of Jewish not-for-profit organizations are racing to fill the gaps in college apps before the cutbacks inflict a brutal toll on the aspirations of Jewish middle-class families across the country.

“We’ve got to do something to give the next generation a shot at the American dream of acceptance to a top-20-ranked institution,” said Larry Goldish, president of the Jewish Federations of North America. “It’s such a moving transformation. Second-string applicants can transform into top-tier material right before your eyes.”

Trips to such exotic locales as Honduras, the Ukraine and New Orleans have proven too expensive for the Jewish philanthropic world to support, leading many not-for-profits to look into providing less expensive alternatives, such as SAT tutors and college consultants. Mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson and Harold Grinspoon have offered to pitch in by reading college essays and offering notes.

Communal leaders worry that if the Jewish world is unable to help Jewish teens get into the college of their choice, youth may drift toward organizations that offer better opportunities for social and economic advancement, like China.

“It’s about giving these kids a future — acceptance at Penn, not Penn State,” said Goldish. “These are people’s lives we’re talking about.”

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