WESTPORT — Staples Tuition Grants awarded $302,000 to 106 Staples High School seniors and recent alumni to help pay for college Tuesday night.

“It felt amazing,” said John Backus, 18, a senior bound for the University of Maine, who earned the Staples High School Class of 1981 award. Backus, a member of the 2017 Class LL champion Staples varsity baseball team and an employee at Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club, said the program enables students to receive money from “great people who care about the community.”

The recipients of the financial assistance payments — ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 — were celebrated at a June 13 awards ceremony at Staples’ library.

Staples Tuition Grants have been handed out since 1943. Recipients have to apply and demonstrate financial need; however, the awardees have excelled in various endeavors including academics, athletics and community service.

Unlike many aid programs, Staples Tuition Grants are not solely for freshman year. Recipients are invited to re-apply to the nonprofit each year for a grant.

Many of the awards given out are done so in honor of specific groups, like the Class of 1981 that suffered through three years of construction — and mud — when the high school was first modernized, or named after specific people, such as John M. Dodig.

This year, Grace Connell snagged the award named in honor of the 11-year principal of Staples High School who recently retired. A member of the Staples varsity tennis team, Connell plans to study nursing at The Catholic University of America. In her application, the 17-year-old highlighted her commitment to helping the community, something evident even in her future plans to become a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.

The co-presidents of the all-volunteer board of Staples Tuition Grants — Doug Fincher and Lee Frey Saveliff — emphasized the importance of grantees giving back and donating once they graduate from college. Saveliff said the nonprofit relies on “generosity” and wished all the awardees “much happiness and success” in the years to come.

A 2010 Staples graduate, Trevor Lally spoke about how crucial the assistance from Staples Tuition Grants was in his life. When Lally stepped on the campus of Providence College for orientation, he found out his father died — something that would have caused great financial strain on many new college students. Luckily for Lally, he had the Staples program to fall back on and provide additional assistance.

“They were there for me when paying for college had a big question mark,” said Lally, who is now a donor himself.

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com