The New York City Housing Authority celebrated 10 NYCHA residents who are students at the City University of New York (CUNY) during its 8th Annual NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship Program Awards ceremony. The ceremony at The Borough of Manhattan Community College was part of NYCHA’s ongoing efforts to support NYCHA residents in their pursuit of higher education.
“NYCHA is proud to partner with CUNY, local elected officials and the non-profit sector to help residents further their studies,” said NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. “Empowering our residents with the education and resources they need to succeed in life is an essential part of our mission.”
This year NYCHA is awarding a total of $10,000 in college scholarships to deserving students. The 10 scholarship winners were chosen from various NYCHA developments including Eastchester Gardens in the Bronx, Gowanus and Long Island Baptist Houses in Brooklyn, Gompers, Straus and Wald in Manhattan, and Bland and Queensbridge in Queens. Their families emigrated from countries such as Bangladesh, China, and Egypt. Many are first generation immigrants, as well as the first person in their immediate family to attend college. Others moved into a NYCHA apartment with their families at a devastating point in their lives, when the need for affordable housing either rescued them from, or protected them against homelessness. Most have chosen to attend a CUNY college for its affordability and quality education programs.
NYCHA’s partners in education include CUNY and NYC Council Members Gale Brewer, Robert Jackson and Letitia James, as well as the Council’s Brooklyn delegation. Since 2005 the NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship Program has annually awarded approximately $80,000 in scholarships to eligible NYCHA residents who are enrolled at CUNY colleges. In 2011, the program was expanded to include the Regina A. Figueroa Memorial Scholarship, which honors the academic achievements of NYCHA residents with disabilities who are excelling at CUNY colleges.
To be eligible, a student must be an authorized NYCHA resident; a full-time sophomore, junior or senior enrolled in a CUNY Associate or Baccalaureate degree program; have a minimum 3.0 GPA; demonstrate financial need; and submit a 500-word essay. A selection committee comprised of NYCHA and CUNY representatives selected the winners from 70 applications submitted this year.
Bronx Community College
Living in NYCHA’s Straus Houses and attending Bronx Community College is helping Wynta Alexander realize her dream of helping others. Wynta is an aspiring physician, who aims to specialize in treating low-income patients with infectious diseases. Wynta is a psychology major and plans to continue her studies at a CUNY senior college. She says, “Growing up poor and as a resident of NYCHA, I realized affordable healthcare is not accessible to everyone, especially those with chronic illnesses.” Wynta is going to be an agent of change in her community when it comes to equitable healthcare.
Long Island Baptist Houses
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Nahjee Cook credits both NYCHA and CUNY with saving her from becoming homeless and helping her make a successful transition into adulthood. When Nahjee aged out of foster care at 21 she was scared, alone and had no place to call home. It wasn’t’ until she was selected for a NYCHA apartment in Brooklyn when she finally found the stability she had been searching for her whole life. Now with a steady home life she was able to transfer to John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she is thriving academically in the area of public administration. She intends to operate a group home for foster children or perhaps become a future commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services. Nahjee says, “I went from homeless to head of household because NYCHA gave me a chance, and I went from miserable and barely passing to doing exceptionally well because CUNY gave me a chance.”
Queensbridge North Houses
Living in NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses North has inspired Misty Daiyan to search for a career that combines her love for accounting with her passion for altruism, so that she can address the violence and impoverishment she sees in her community. Misty is an aspiring Certified Public Accountant, who intends to work in the non-profit sector. The educational experience and professional development Misty is getting at Queens College is preparing her to be a leader both on and off campus. “NYCHA and CUNY are making a difference in my life while allowing me to do the same for others.” Misty is a campus ambassador who promotes the accounting field to underrepresented ethnic groups. She is also a volunteer math tutor for elementary school students to help them achieve the successes that have helped to shape her path.
David Liao says being a NYCHA resident and a CUNY student has opened his eyes to many possibilities. NYCHA gave David and his family the security of affordable housing at a time when they were on the verge of becoming homeless. CUNY provided David an opportunity to obtain a top rate education at Hunter College while remaining close to home where he could continue to assist his immigrant parents overcome their language barriers and navigate the social services system. David is currently majoring in neuroscience psychology with a double major in chemistry and Chinese in preparation for medical school and eventually becoming a physician. He gives back to his community through volunteer efforts at Beth Israel Hospital and on his college campus, because he wants to help others in need the same way that CUNY and NYCHA have helped him.
Alyssa Alicino says being a member of a NYCHA and CUNY community has given new meaning to the saying “dream big.” Through her studies at Baruch College and her humble upbringing in NYCHA’s Gompers Houses, Alyssa has encountered many people and has had many experiences that have expanded her world view. Some of the highlights of Alyssa’s educational career at CUNY, where she is in the Macaulay Honors Program include, studying abroad in Spain and Guatemala; teaching English to Chilean high school students; attending an international conference in Mexico, and interning at the White House National Economic Council in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Alyssa is an aspiring attorney who plans to give back to the various institutions that have reinforced her intentions to “dream big.”
Being a resident of public housing and attending a CUNY college has exposed Darren Lin to numerous cultures, ethnicities and socioeconomic classes. Darren says this exposure helps him to better understand the lives of others and is in essence preparing him to be a keen psychotherapist who can appreciate the cultural, environmental and economic stressors that impact his future clients. Even though Darren is the son of immigrant working-class parents, he never bought into the stigma that is often associated with being a public housing resident. Instead, Darren uses the doubters and naysayers as a source of inspiration to excel. He says, “I believe being a resident of public housing and attending a CUNY college have molded me into a more ambitious person, a dedicated student, and a strong candidate for graduate school and the challenges ahead.”
Lillian Wald Houses
New York City College of Technology
Ever since emigrating to the U.S. in 1999 Aneta Swierzko dreamed of becoming a college graduate. For a while, Aneta’s dreams were deferred as she struggled to escape an abusive relationship while protecting herself and her two young daughters. She eventually found refuge, support and resources in a domestic violence shelter that helped her to establish a new life for herself and her children. She became a NYCHA resident in 2004 and later obtained the ability to legally work and educate herself in the U.S. Aneta says “I overcame many obstacles and disadvantages to become a college student in this country: I had to learn how to handle responsibilities as a single mother without family support because I don’t have any family in the U.S.; I had to teach myself English so that I could work to support my children.” And yet she still finds time to contribute to her school community by working in the Counseling Services Center where she enjoys helping fellow students who have difficulties in math and physics. Aneta’s ultimate goal is to become a Certified Fraud Examiner.
Queensbridge Houses North
Fatemah Eldeeb has always been an ambitious young woman. She works hard academically to alleviate the stress of her parents who have sacrificed so much to provide for their family of six. Fatemah says, "I knew that to ultimately have a successful job I had to be a very hardworking student, so I always aimed high." All of her hard work paid off when she was able to graduate from high school a year early and begin her academic career at Hunter College, where she is excelling as a biochemistry major. Fatemah is pursuing a career in pharmacology and a doctorate in chemistry, while still making time to volunteer at a local garden with her neighbors, being a homework helper at her local library and a companion for seniors at a nearby nursing home.
Queensbridge Houses North
Queens College/Columbia University
Like many, Moawia and his family came to NYCHA after experiencing a tragedy that rendered them homeless. While in high school, he lost his family home due to fire. Spending six months in a shelter and basically missing his whole ninth grade year, was a turning point for Moawia. He wanted more stability out of life and realized that getting a good education would set him on the right path toward achieving his goal. CUNY Queens College gave him an opportunity to explore an interest in computer engineering. It is also affording him a unique opportunity to complete his education at the Columbia University Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, at a fraction of the private school tuition price. Both NYCHA and CUNY are helping Moawia realize his dreams and build a better future for himself and his family.
Jocelyn S. Cruz
Jocelyn S. Cruz was born to sing. "I have always found solace in singing and music," she says. As an aspiring opera singer, she honed her craft at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School for Music and the Arts and dreamed of one day joining a classical music conservatory where she could further grow and learn. Her dreams however were seemingly shattered when she learned that her family no longer had the means to help fund her education. Determined to succeed, that is when she discovered Queens College and its Aaron Copland School of Music. "For the affordable tuition of a CUNY school, I could receive top tier conservatory training. This institution is a financial blessing," she said. Likewise her longtime home at Eastchester Gardens has afforded Jocelyn the stability she needs to thrive academically. "Both affordable housing and affordable tuition have enabled me and my younger brother to be more than just kids from the projects; they have allowed us to become a part of something much more and to desire greatness."