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June 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004

M-A graduate heads foundation for middle-college students M-A graduate heads foundation for middle-college students (June 02, 2004)

By David Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer

During the dot-com boom, the demographics in the community of philanthropists took on a more youthful aspect as suddenly wealthy Silicon Valley executives started giving away money to good causes. But while youthful donors may have been novel, having the wherewithal to be generous was, as always, a given.

Dana Van Deman of Menlo Park apparently hasn't read the rules for being a philanthropist. Just two years out of high school, Ms. Van Deman has established the Middle College Foundation for students at Canada College in Woodside. Two Redwood City program graduates -- Benjamin Bluett Mills and Karina Murtagh -- were recently awarded $500 scholarships from the foundation.

Canada's middle college program, now in its fifth year, has enrolled more than 300 students, said Canada middle college instructor Jen Petroelje. Many middle college students want a quicker route through high school and college; others are unhappy with being in high school, Ms. Petroelje said.

Ms. Van Deman graduated in 2002 with a high school diploma and an associate's degree in economics, the only Canada student ever to earn simultaneous diplomas. With hopes of one day running a nonprofit organization, she is a student at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and plans to attend the MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I find it remarkable that she is willing to give away her own money when she still has college bills of her own," said Ms. Petroelje. "It really means a lot to me that she credits middle college for some of her success and that she is doing this in a public way by giving scholarships to our students."

Ms. Van Deman said the idea came to her after her own fruitless experiences trying to find scholarships while enrolled in middle college at Canada.

"I was a high school senior and a college sophomore at the same time," which left her ineligible, she said. "I wanted to be able to provide (a middle college scholarship) for students at Canada College."

Ms. Van Deman said she hopes to attract grant money to the foundation, to expand to other Bay Area middle college programs, and eventually beyond the Bay Area.

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