Thirty-two young scholars. More than $137,000 in scholarship awards. Countless rounds of applause, laughter and tears. With apologies to the Barbie movie, Scholarship Day at the Isaacs Center and Goddard Riverside was this summer’s biggest feel-good event.
“At the Isaacs Center, I was given the opportunity to learn new skills,” said awardee Precious Ekezie in her speech to fellow students and staff. “I had the chance to occupy spaces that I didn’t think I was able to get into.”
Ekezie has graduated from Hunter College and is applying to Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. Those accomplishments, she told the crowd at the Isaacs Center dining room, were once just “a dream that I’d jotted down on my vision board and list of goals during one of our workshops.”
The scholarships help students at the Goddard Options Center and Isaacs Education and Workforce programs pursue higher education. Typically the awards help pay for things that aren’t covered by other kinds of financial aid, like application fees, transportation and buying books.
Many of these students represent the first generation of their families to go to college. As Damion Samuels, who oversees all youth programs at both organizations, noted, they’re trailblazers.
“A trailblazer is someone who, when there’s wilderness and no trail, they get a machete and hack their way through,” Samuels told the assembled students at Goddard Riverside. “It takes courage and character to set out on a course when you’re not sure where it will end up.”
In a brief speech, Jacob Warman, a scholarship winner who’s attending Emerson College, offered his fellow students a little advice: “Put yourself out of your comfort zone and try things. You might just like it.”
Warman said he’d been anxious about the transition to higher education but the Options Success program, which provides support throughout college, had been there for him. “The Success program has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “I look forward to check-ins with my counselor all the time and in terms of advice for college—you guys are amazing.”