Talha Khan, a resident of Queensbridge Houses and student at City College, stands with his mother at the annual NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship Program Awards Ceremony on September 20, 2012.

By Brent Grier

This year's class of NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship winners made the most of an opportunity to receive assistance in pursuit of higher education. The program awards $1,000 scholarships annually to eligible residents who are enrolled at City University of New York (CUNY) colleges. Award recipients can use the aid towards tuition, books or other education-related expenses.

NYCHA residents have to write an essay as part of the application process, and Mariner's Harbor (Staten Island) resident Rodolfo Martinez said writing his essay was therapeutic. "At first it was hard, but eventually I decided to write about my experiences being homeless," said the City College attendee, who after graduating with a major in political science, hopes to go to law school. "NYCHA gave me a home to live in and now is helping me pay for school."

Misty Daiyan, a Queensbridge Houses (Queens) resident who studies accounting at Queens College, said she also had trouble getting started on her essay. "It was hard being so open and talking about my parents’ struggles and what they’ve been through throughout life," she said, noting that they always have been there for her ever since the family came to the United States from Bangladesh.

This year's scholarships were funded in part by grants from the non-profit organization Women in Housing and Finance, Inc., and New York City Council Members Robert Jackson and Letitia James. City Council Member Gale Brewer also contributed funds to the Scholarship Program, which will be applied next year. "For better or worse, it takes money to pursue the best educations this country has to offer," NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea told the scholarship winners. "We want to do our part to make it available to you, but you’re doing your part by putting in the hard work."

In addition to Mr. Martinez and Ms. Daiyan, the 2012 NYCHA-CUNY Resident Scholarship winners are Tiffany Almonte (Douglass Houses/York College); Alexandria Carr (Armstrong Houses/City College of NY); Ebony Johnson (Ingersoll Houses/Hunter College); Talha Khan (Queensbridge Houses/Queens College); Danique Love-Billy (Grant Houses/Lehman College); Kayla L. Marte (Parkside Houses/City College of NY); Tonisha Reid (Marcus Garvey Houses/LaGuardia Community College); Syeda T. Shume (Polo Grounds Towers/Hunter College); Jazmyn L. Smith (Ravenswood Houses/John Jay College for Criminal Justice); Lygia A. Sukie (Malboro Houses/Borough of Manhattan Community College); Melinda Thompkins-Perez (Park Rock Rehab/Kingsborough Community College); Heriberto Vega (Amsterdam Houses/John Jay School for Justice); and Ning Ye (Gowanus Houses/Borough of Manhattan Community College).