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Family’s Donation Helps Santa Monica College Students Study Abroad

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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By Lookout Staff

April 14, 2015 -- Ten Santa Monica College students traveled to South Africa this past winter to study, thanks to the generosity of the family of a former faculty member, SMC officials announced.

Mark and Lani Verge have established the Art Verge Study Abroad Scholarship Fund at SMC in honor of Mark’s father, who taught California and Latin American history at SMC for more four decades and helped pioneer our Study Abroad programs, officials said.

“These grants continue the Verge family’s tradition of encouraging SMC students to travel and study in other countries,” said Lizzy Moore, interim president of the Santa Monica College Foundation.

The 10 students who received grants of $500 each to help with the costs of their travel to study in South Africa were Natalie Arrigotti, Mark Biedlingmaier, Alberto Bravo, William Buckner, Ana Castellon, Sally Chang, Karla Duarte, Kelly Malmloef Sandgren, Janessa Tenille Serate and Raquel Shapiro.

“These grants made a real difference to our students’ travel experiences,” said Kelley Brayton, SMC’s dean of international education. “The Verge scholarship was granted to recipients just prior to their trip, which was a wonderful surprise for them.

“It enabled students to experience local life during their free time, from venturing to a local café, socializing with locals, or just picking up souvenirs to remind them of this special time in South Africa,” Brayton said.

Mark and Lani Verge are co-owners of several popular restaurants, including Art’s Table, named after his father, Mark Verge said.

“My dad was a huge supporter of traveling and exploring different cultures, and he loved leading groups of SMC students to new places, new experiences, and broader perspectives on the world,” Verge said. “He worked hard to help make SMC’s Study Abroad Program one of the best ones out there.

“My dad also believed that the opportunity to study abroad should be available to all students, regardless of their background, so we decided to give the grants to students with a 2.5-3.25 GPA.”

It was Verge’s brother, Arthur, who teaches history at El Camino College, who suggested the family use proceeds from the restaurant to help SMC students live and study in other nations, he said.

“All of us Verge ‘kids’ are SMC alums -- my dad wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Mark, who also owns Westside Rentals Connection with his brother Patrick. “We’re developing ideas for different things we can do in the future to support programs at SMC.”

Brayton said the opportunity to study abroad can be life-changing for students.

“Study abroad is a transformative experience, and the gift of the Verge scholarship made it all the more memorable for the students,” she said.

For more information about SMC’s Study Abroad Program, visit For more information about the Art Verge Study Abroad Scholarship Fund, call 310-434-4215.

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