Salvo creating scholarship for HHS students
Lifelong Hammonton resident Stephen B. Salvo has had quite a journey to where he is today. It dates back to the late summer of 1976, when he was sitting in the same kitchen where he is telling his story when a thought came into his head.
“There’s more to your life than what you have been doing,” Salvo recalled.
What was he doing before that thought? He was a high school teacher and athletic director right out of college, worked for a drug company on the West Coast, owned a pharmacy and an employment agency. Still, he believed there was more out there for him and this prompted him to tell his parents that he was leaving the next day.
“I went into the bedroom in this house and said to my mom and dad ‘I’m leaving tomorrow.’ They said ‘what are you going to do, Steve?’ and I said ‘I’m going back to school to get my master’s degree in guidance’ and it was something that just happened quickly,” Salvo said.
He then drove his car with his girlfriend at the time and went to the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), where he got his masters degree in student personnel and guidance work. The journey didn’t stop there as he became a baseball and women’s basketball coach at San Diego State University, a guidance counselor at Hammonton High School, a guidance director at Willingboro and Delran High Schools before finishing as a guidance counselor at Vineland High School.
But behind those careers was a person who wanted to help others, which dated back to an experience in the third grade where he noticed three kids not eating. He found that unacceptable and that prompted him to invite those kids to play basketball with him. Salvo then asked his mother to make three sandwiches and milks.
“Third grade is a little early for somebody to be concerned about the welfare of others and that probably characterized who I was. Somebody that always wanted to be helping others and I was more comfortable in that,” Salvo said.
But that third grade experience followed with the story of how his mother was deprived of an education by her father. Salvo described his mother as incredibly gifted in mathematics who can do everything in her head but since she was the oldest of nine children, she was forced to drop out of high school to help take care of the family, which was not uncommon as it was the early 1900s.
“At the end of eighth grade, she was told, as the oldest of nine children, ‘forget high school, it’s not going to happen.’ So in 1918, her father says ‘you got eight brothers and sisters, you’re the oldest, you have to drop out of school, you have to work here on the farm,’” Salvo said.
Being told that story by his mother bothered Salvo and that impacted him to help others reach their full potential.
“My mom was not allowed to become who she wanted to become. My mom was never allowed to step in the high school and as my mom told me as I was growing up, that always bothered me because she was gifted and her gift was denied,” Salvo said.
Salvo is setting up a scholarship for Hammonton High School students that are enrolling in college. Seeing the school grow from when he worked there as a guidance counselor to now helped confirm in his mind to set up the scholarship. The money was accumulated from what he’s earned from 40 to 50 years of working and inheritances from his parents. He said he wondered: What he could do with the money?
“Most people leave it to their kids and grandkids or they give it to organizations and to me, I’m saying ‘that’s temporary, I want something permanent.’ [This money] is going to make a difference to some kids’ lives,” Salvo said.
The scholarship is set up through a foundation where a very large portion of these assets will be set in stone, the interest is taken and then allocated to a certain number of students and that will be a total of $10,000 per scholarship during a course of four years. Students get $2,500 a year with the guarantee that they can go back to school the next year. The purpose in setting up these scholarships so that the money lasts a lifetime for those who can benefit from reaching their ultimate goal in reaching their full potential, something that he wished his mother reached if she wasn’t deprived of that opportunity.
There will be a committee, which was selected by Salvo, who will work with him in the application and interview process. Any Hammonton High School senior can apply as the application is in guidance director Michael Ryan’s office and they will take the applications in April. The most important requirements considered are grades and attendance as those factors are important to him as he was taught as a supervisor that in evaluating somebody is time on task.
“What I’ve seen happen in the last three years since COVID-19 hit: attendance in school has dropped and many kids are missing school. In my estimation, if you’re not there, you don’t have a commitment to be the best that you can be and this money is for kids who want to be the best that they can be and being the best that you can be means that you’re there, you’re involved in activities, you lead a life in good decision-making in school and out of school and therefore, I want verification that attendance is very important,” Salvo said.
The application isn’t limited to college as it includes trade school as Salvo noted that the world needs more electricians, plumbers and other trade careers and he wants to be there to help support that path as well.
Salvo doesn’t want this scholarship named after him but out of respect for his parents for what they did for him, he wants them to get the credit they deserve for helping him so that they can help others. This year, Salvo has donated $20,000 and will go up to approximately $40,000 after he passes away, based on interest rates.
One of Salvo’s aspirations is for students to meet these needs of the scholarship requirements and to reach their full potential. He has always been a strong proponent of the following quote when it comes to helping others and hopes that it stands true today with the purpose and message of the scholarship:
“I can take care of me, just not at the expense of we.”