Slain teen's scholarship fund is building The family of Jason Sweeney wants to help send a boy to the school he wanted to attend but couldn't afford.

Posted: August 02, 2003

More than two months after the murder of Fishtown teen Jason Sweeney, friends and family are working to keep the legacy of his 16 years alive.

A loved one's death "isn't just something you think about the week it happens and then forget about it," said family friend Lauren McGuire, 20, of West Philadelphia.

So friends, acquaintances, and strangers have been throwing their support behind a scholarship fund in his memory.

"We love them," said Joanne Verrier, 45, of University City, at a recent scholarship fund-raiser. "Anything the family thinks is good right now, we're happy to support."

"I just hope they know that whatever the Sweeneys need, that people will be here to support them," said Anthony Mobley, 42, of Bridesburg, who wore a Jason Sweeney T-shirt and button at the fund-raiser at Liberties restaurant that raised $8,500.

On May 30, Jason Sweeney was bludgeoned to death in Fishtown for the $500 he was carrying. Four teens are charged with murder.

Paul and Dawn Sweeney established the Jason Keel Sweeney Foundation to fund a full scholarship to the Valley Forge Military Academy in memory of their son. It is reserved for a student like Jason - a C student with financial need.

Jason Sweeney was accepted to the private military academy for fall 2001, a step closer to his goal of being a Navy SEAL, but was unable to attend after his parents could not come up with the tuition.

"He wanted to attend more than anything. It broke his heart," said Dawn Sweeney, 38.

Instead, Jason Sweeney attended the Franklin Learning Center, eventually dropping out and entering construction work with his father.

Regular school "wasn't going to lead where he wanted to go," Dawn Sweeney said. In Jason's mind, "it was a waste of time."

Instead, Jason planned to get his GED and sign up for the military.

The military academy supports the scholarship fund.

Although the academy offers its own partial scholarships, none comes close to the $26,000 in tuition, room and board needed to attend the boarding school.

"Parents come up with the remainder," said Kelly DeShane, dean of admissions. "It puts a heavy burden on a family, including the Sweeney family."

Though the Sweeneys couldn't come up with the money in time for Jason, they are determined to offer help to a similar student.

"I hope the scholarship means hope for another kid," said Michelle Metzger, 39, of Fishtown, who has children Jason Sweeney's age. "I hope some good comes out of the tragedy."

The first winner of the full scholarship is expected to be picked within two weeks.

Contact staff writer Sree Roy at 215-854-2601 or sroy@phillynews.com.

To Contribute

Contributions may be made to the Jason Keel Sweeney Foundation, Box 3775, Philadelphia 19125.

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