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Sullivan and Deckard families contribute $2.3 million to create CSU program for foster care youth

Program will help newly independent high school seniors pursue higher education

CLEVELAND (Thursday, December 11, 2014) – A combined gift from Frank and Barbara Sullivan and Jenniffer and Daryl Deckard of $2.3 million will provide high school seniors aging out of foster care with scholarships and support to attend Cleveland State University.

The funds will establish the Sullivan/Deckard Opportunity Scholarship program, which will guide youth who age out of the foster care system through the college application process. Once enrolled at CSU as Sullivan/Deckard Scholars, students will benefit from a comprehensive support system. The program will provide scholarships for tuition and living expenses as well as on-campus employment through the work-study program.

CSU will become one of only a few universities identified nationally that offer such support. The first cohort of graduating high school seniors will be identified this spring and enrolled at CSU for fall 2015.

Barbara Sullivan serves on the Board of Directors for Fill This House, an organization that provides household goods to newly emancipated young adults. Frank Sullivan is chairman and chief executive officer of RPM International, Inc., a Medina-based holdings company for manufacturers of industrial and consumer building materials.

“Through my work with Fill This House, a nonprofit that provides basic household necessities for independent living, I have met many bright and hardworking young people within the foster care system who dream of earning a college education and building a better future for themselves. Our intent is to help provide the support students need to begin their adult lives on a pathway to success," said Mrs. Sullivan.

Jenniffer Deckard is CEO of Chesterland, Ohio-based Fairmount Santrol, which provides materials used in oil and gas exploration. Daryl Deckard is general manager of Black Lab, LLC, a Fairmount subsidiary that manufactures custom-blended industrial and commercial products.

"Having opened our hearts and our home as foster parents, our family recognizes this great need in our community. We are eager to enhance the opportunities available to children who have been placed in foster care that come as a result of college completion. We feel privileged to partner with the Sullivan family and CSU in this holistic approach," said Mrs. Deckard.

Many individuals in foster care experience an abrupt end in services from the foster care system upon turning 18 years old, when they are considered fully independent adults. National studies have estimated that fewer than half of these young adults apply to college, and less than 10 percent of those who apply graduate with a degree.

"Through the generosity of the Sullivans and Deckards, and in collaboration with our community partners, we are creating an avenue of access that will allow deserving students to thrive within the university community," said CSU president Ronald M. Berkman.

Interested applicants may contact the CSU Division of University Engagement at