The Polish-American Board of Education of Berks County is a non-profit, non-denominational, non-political organization created for the purpose of promoting and providing annual scholarships for students of Polish-American descent of Berks County.
In May 1945, a concerned group of Polish-American citizens met at the Polish Citizens Political Association headquarters at 9th and Spruce Streets to discuss the possibility of providing some inducement for students of Polish-American descent to further their education beyond high school. They had learned from the guidance counselors of the senior high schools that less than 2% of all high school graduates of Polish descent in Berks County enrolled in a college or university to further their education. A meeting of delegates of all the Polish-American organizations and other interested citizens of Berks County was called to consider what action to take to remedy this problem. The enthusiastic response at this meeting from all the delegates indicated a need to establish a Polish-American Board of Education that would provide financial aid to worthy students of Polish-American descent. This aid was to be a means of encouraging students to continue their education beyond the high school level.
With the excellent assistance of Rev. C.L. Alwein, principal of Central Catholic High School, Dr. Thomas Ford, Superintendent of the Reading School District, and Dr. Milton G. Geil, head of the Department of Psychology at Albright College and with the mutual cooperation and financial support of
the Polish-American organizations in Reading and Berks County, the Polish-American Board of Education was organized on November 25, 1945. Initially the Polish organizations provided funds for the scholarships, while the function of the Polish-American Board of Education was to administer them. However, the responsibility of acquiring funds to continue funding the scholarship program has become a function of the members of the Board of Education. The first scholarship of $1,000 was awarded in May 1946 to Jessie L Jozwiak-Taksa to attend Temple University.
During the early years when the donations from the Polish social clubs ceased, the volunteer members of PABE Berks worked hard to raise money to award one $1,000 scholarship annually. They made and sold thousands of pierogi and golumpki, conducted raffles, solicited donations and sponsored song and dance programs from Poland at the Rajah Theater to name just a few of the fund raiser activities. Then in December of 1982, the recipient of the PABE Berks Scholarship in 1949, the late Theodore R. Stanley, donated $50,000 to the scholarship fund to establish an annual memorial scholarship in memory of his grandmother Mary Oziemkiewicz. Mr. Stanley, a Reading High School graduate, received a $1,000 scholarship from the board during its early existence. He worked his way through the University of Pennsylvania and later in life founded three businesses including the Danbury Mint, the Postal Commemorative Society and the Easton Express. PABE Berks has been blessed with many members and friends of the organization who have donated to the scholarship fund in memory of loved ones or remembered the organization in their Will. Among them was Ron Jaworski, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, who sponsored a $1,000 scholarship in memory of his father, William F. Jaworski.
Recently, the organization was contacted by one of its past scholarship recipients Ed Yakabosky III He is the son of PABE Berks members Karen and Ed Yakabosky Jr. Ed graduated with the Governor Mifflin Class of 2005 and attended Penn State University Park to obtain bachelor degrees in Computer Science and Information Sciences & Technology. After college, he moved to San Jose, CA (“Silicon Valley”) to pursue a career in Technical Program Management. He currently manages data privacy policies and enforcement for Linkedin. Ed’s parents told him that PABE Berks is celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2020 and he contacted the organization’s current board president, Mary Ann Zerkowski, to let her know that he was pledging an annual donation of $2,000 to sponsor a scholarship as a “thank you” to the many donors in the Berks County community and to the unselfish volunteers who have given of their time and energy to provide 382 Berks County students of Polish-American descent with approximately $700,000 in financial assistance to further their education beyond high school.