Every summer for two weeks, hundreds of youth in grades 2 through 10 come to the SUNY Oswego campus to explore topics ranging from music, art and dance to science, cooking and history during the Sheldon Institute.

Now, these academic and cultural programs will be more accessible to lower-income families for many years to come, thanks to an endowed scholarship fund established by the Tarandi Foundation. 

Established through a $50,000 gift, the Sheldon Institute Endowed Fund, managed by the Oswego College Foundation Inc., will support scholarships for students attending the two-week educational enrichment program and will ensure a more secure source of income for the program.

This gift expands on the foundation’s support for the Sheldon Institute, which has received more than $20,000 from the foundation over the past eight years.

“The Sheldon Institute provides an opportunity for kids to have a unique experience that pushes them both academically as well as creatively,” said Neelesh Shah, whose parents, the late physicians Ravindra and Manjula Shah, established the Tarandi Foundation.

“With such a major emphasis on the Common Core in our public schools, many of the activities that challenge our students have been pushed aside in order to prepare for state-mandated testing,” he said. “Programs like Sheldon Institute allow children to choose from different enrichment clusters and expose them to new ways of thinking and problem solving. It is important for these programs to exist and for us to ensure that all students that show interest have an opportunity to attend a program like this.”

For the past 36 years, the Sheldon Institute has enrolled area youth in four 90-minute workshops that develop critical thinking skills in the arts, communication, cultural appreciation, science, technology and writing, among other areas. Students interact with experienced educators in hands-on and engaging projects.

“For many of these students, the institute is the first time they’re on a college campus,” said Dr. Pam Michel, interim dean of Oswego’s School of Education. “Participating in the institute gets them thinking about college and planting that seed for the future.

“From an educational perspective, the institute keeps students’ minds active over summer and encourages students to go deeper into exploring topics that they are passionate about or sometimes to try something that is completely new to them,” she said. “The Tarandi Foundation support is giving more students this possibility. This is a tremendous gift to the university and the community, and we’re truly grateful.”

The Tarandi Foundation supports initiatives where the funding can make a significant impact and provide positive change within a community, Shah said.

“We’re hoping that our support provides a launching pad for the Sheldon Institute to continue to build community awareness and generate more programmatic support,” he said.

About the Tarandi Foundation

The Tarandi Foundation is a philanthropic organization that was established by the late Oswego physicians Ravindra and Manjula Shah in the early 1990s to support and promote education and community service. The foundation was named for Tara, Manjula’s mother, and Anandi, Ravindra’s mother.

Their children, Dr. Monica Shah and Neelesh Shah, have carried on the work of the Tarandi Foundation and have made substantial contributions in Oswego County over the past decade to support both literacy and arts education.