Students from the Rochester City School District who face unfavorable economic conditions, limited academic resources and poor family dynamics can find aid and opportunity in Eric Zeller’s new scholarship, EZ Scholarship.

Zeller has been pushing to expand his program between 30 to 40 disadvantaged inner-city youth, as opposed to the current one or two students a year. EZ scholarship provides mentoring and financing for various college concerns and expenses. In an effort to further develop and expand his program, Zeller sought guidance from UR’s Warner School of Education.

‘These programs often run a few years and then run out of gas,” Zeller said in a Warner press release from Oct. 13. ‘I don’t want that to happen. I need program expertise from a knowledgeable source and Warner is the perfect place to get that I know it is.”

He approached Associate Professor of Education Doug Guiffrida and a team of eight doctoral students at Warner for further research and guidance for the direction of his program. While he is certain of his target, Zeller desires for Warner’s research to better identify students that are truly in need and are truly motivated enough to reach for their potential.

The Warner research team applied grounded theory in their qualitative research method, offering various approaches to systematically improve and stabilize the scholarship, as well as ensuring its sustainability. The project was relevant to Guiffrida’s studies. Thus, he created an advance seminar that would give Ph.D students the opportunity to utilize their studies in real- life applications.

The team started off with a comprehensive set of advice via a seminar. Some of their advice included a better screening process, providing financial assistance in a more timely and better recorded manner, getting students involved in pre-college programs to prepare them for college and working closer with families among several other recommendations.

Director of Warner Advancement Preston Faulkner played a key role in getting Zeller involved with Warner. Faulkner introduced Zeller to Guiffrida’s fields of study and Guiffrida to Zeller’s vision. He eventually got the two to engage in discussion. Faulkner stressed that the collaboration with Zeller is an original one for Warner, mostly because of his relationship with Zeller.

‘This program is pretty unique because of my personal relationship with Eric [Zeller],” he said. ‘I knew he’d appreciate the faculty effort and additional research.”
In the past decade, Zeller fully financed a half dozen Rochester City School students’ ventures into away colleges, including cars, childcare, apartments, mentorship and several other college necessities.

A local entrepreneur and inheritor of his father Henry Zeller’s technical support and supply chain management company, Zeller Corporation, Zeller has offered a route for Rochester high school students to enroll and make it through college. His solution is in his self-sponsored scholarship program called EZ Scholarship, where the primary requisite for scholarship recipients is that they express potential, in spite of their circumstances.

Zeller, whose father received a similar opportunity from a family friend who offered to finance his college endeavors, expressed his full dedication to the program when he offered up his entire estate to financing the scholarship in his passing.

What first started out as an initiative that was closed to high school students who worked for Zeller Corporations, was later expanded to all needy Rochester students after he approached the Rochester Hillside foundation. Hillside currently administers his scholarship and offers in college mentorship to students that are affiliated with their program.

Since his program reaches out to students with poor family dynamics, Zeller urges recipients to enroll in away colleges, outside of Rochester, while keeping in touch with either himself or their Hillside mentor. Hence, it is unlikely that recipients will enroll at UR.

‘The school of Arts and Sciences isn’t involved with [the EZ Scholarship],” Faulkner said. ‘But, if somewhere down the road one of the students enroll into [UR], then that’s how they would be linked to the program.”

The team remains confident that their research will aid the advancement of Zeller’s efforts.

‘I think our research will have a significant impact on the success of the program,” Guiffrida said in Warner’s October press release. ‘The students’ findings will help shape the way this program identifies and supports the college success of underprivileged students in Rochester.”
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.



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