RAHWAY, New Jersey (WABC) --A new scholarship program in New Jersey is giving young students a chance to go to a top university thanks to a donation from a wealthy Rahway High School alumnus.
"I would like to be an anesthesiologist," said Jenaya Shipley, a student.
For 12-year-old Jenaya and more than a dozen other students in Rahway, the pathway to a career dream just got a helping hand from a wealthy alumnus.
Class of '47 graduate P. Roy Vagelos recently donated $1.75 million for a scholarship program that covers the cost of tuition at Rutgers University.
"It says to the world that we have the right stuff for our kids in our district and if you do your job as a student here on your side, you'll have an opportunity to have a free education," said John Farinella, Rahway High School Principal.
During the last 15 years, Mr. Vagelos, the former CEO of Merck, has contributed millions of dollars for graduating Rahway seniors accepted into the nation's top 25 colleges.
So why did he make this latest donation? "I had wonderful teachers at Rahway High School who helped me to reach for the top by working harder," Vagelos said in a statement. "I believe this program will similarly challenge RHS students to go for it - entry into a great university."
According to one study, seven out of every 10 students who graduated from public and non-profit colleges in 2014 left school not just with a diploma but with about $29,000 in student debt.
Applications for Rutgers' 6-year "Future Scholars" program will open up next week.
Eligible applicants are 7th graders.
"We're providing them with the guidance, with support, with mentoring, with academic rigor, to allow them to really foresee what their potential really is," said Aramis Gutierrez, of Rutgers Future Scholars.
In-state tuition at Rutgers currently runs about $14,000 a year. The scholarship does not cover room and board.